Paddy Straw Pelletisation and Torrefaction Plants


    In News

    • Recently, MoEFCC announced a 50 crore scheme to incentivise industrialists and entrepreneurs to set up paddy straw pelletisation and torrefaction plants to arrest stubble burning.

    What is Stubble Burning?

    • Stubble (parali) burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from the field to sow wheat from the last week of September to November.
    • Stubble burning is a process of setting on fire the straw stubble, left after the harvesting of grains, like paddy, wheat, etc.
    • It is usually required in areas that use the combined harvesting method which leaves crop residue behind.
    • The process of burning farm residue is one of the major causes of air pollution in parts of north India, deteriorating the air quality.
    • Paddy stubble burning is practised mainly in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Punjab, Haryana, and UP to clear the fields for rabi crop sowing. 

    About the scheme

    • Funding 
      • New units set up would be eligible for government funding in the form of capital to set up such plants.
    • Participants
      • The financial assistance can be availed by individuals and companies setting up new plants and units using only paddy straw generated in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, and NCR districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.  
    • Costing
      • The estimated cost of setting up a regular pelletisation plant, which can process a tonne per hour, is 35 lakh. 
      • Under the scheme, the Centre will fund such plants to a maximum of 70 lakh subject to capacity.
    • Torrefaction plant
      • The cost of establishing a torrefaction plant is 70 lakh and under the scheme, is eligible for a maximum funding of 1.4 crore.
    • One-time only scheme
      • The Government has underlined that this would be a one-time only scheme and regular pellet plants would be eligible for 40 crore of the overall pie.  

    Do you know?

    • Pelletisation means converting paddy straw into pellets which can be used in thermal power plants and industries as fuel.
    • Torrefaction is a process to improve physical properties and chemical composition of biomass.
    • Torrefaction is costlier but can deliver a product whose energy content is much higher and theoretically substitute for more coal in a power plant.
    • The first 2G Ethanol Plant in Panipat is expected to utilise 2 lakh metric tonnes of paddy straw every year. 

    Major challenges due to stubble burning 

    • Paddy straw generation
      • Every year, about 27 million tonnes of paddy straw is generated in Punjab and Haryana.
      • Farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue before cultivating wheat and potato. 
    • Cannot be fed to cattle 
      • The problem is that about 75% or 20 million tonnes is from non-basmati rice, which cannot be fed to cattle as fodder because of its high silica content.
    • Air pollution 
      • About 11 million tonnes can be managed in the field and the rest is usually burnt which adds to the air pollution crisis in Delhi.
    • Impact on Soil fertility
      • Burning husk on the ground destroys the nutrients in the soil, making it less fertile.
      • Heat generated by stubble burning penetrates into the soil, leading to the loss of moisture and useful microbes.
    • Health effects
      • The pollution makes people more vulnerable to infection and slows their recovery post infection.

    Significance of the scheme 

    • Saving coal and reducing carbon emissions 
      • Paddy straw made into pellets or torrefied can be mixed along with coal in thermal power plants. 
      • This saves coal as well as reduces carbon emissions that would otherwise have been emitted were the straw burnt in the fields. 
    • Entrepreneurship opportunities 
      • This scheme will help convert waste to wealth and provide entrepreneurship opportunities to our rural youth in Punjab and Haryana.

    Way forward/ Suggestion 

    • Penalising and Incentivising 
      • Through the years the government has attempted to dissuade farmers from burning straw through penalising them as well as incentivising them, such as giving them alternatives to burning the straw.
    • Bio-decomposer 
      • The Government has also encouraged using bio-decomposer, a chemical that decomposes the straw into mulch.
    • Co-firing 
      • The government had earlier mandated co-firing of 5 to 10 percent of biomass along with coal to address the issue of air pollution and to reduce the carbon footprint. 
    • Alternatives to Stubble Burning can be used:
      • Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) machine: which can uproot the stubble and also sow seeds in the area cleared. The stubble can then be used as mulch for the field.
      • In-situ treatment of stubble: Providing equipment to farmers to mix the stubble back into the soil, so that they do not have to burn it.
      • Ex-situ treatment: Under this, some companies have started collecting stubble for their use, but we need more action on this front.
      • Changing cropping pattern: It is the deeper and more fundamental solution.
      • Subsidise crops other than paddy, the source of most stubble burning: Policy and money should incentivise farmers in the region to plant more fruits and vegetables.

    Source: TH