Assam to introduce methanol as cooking fuel
Public sector Assam Petrochemicals Limited is set to introduce – in a first in India – methanol as cleaner, cheaper alternative to liquefied petroleum gas. The pilot project involving 500 burners and stoves, each fuelled by a 1.2-litre canister of methanol, will be launched on October 5. The company hopes to go for commercial production after almost two months of monitoring the project at its headquarters in eastern Assam’s Namrup town.The methanol cooking fuel project is expected to a game-changer for APL, India’s first natural gas-based petrochemicals company, which has undertaken a ₹1,337 crore expansion project to produce 600 tonnes of methanol and 325 tonnes of formaldehyde per day by September 2019.At current plant utilisation of 95%, APL hopes to be the number one methanol producer in the country after expansion. This, for the 47-year-old company, has been a massive turnaround from five years ago when its balance sheet showed a loss of ₹28 crore.“We made a profit of ₹12.29 crore during 2017-18, which was 262.26% more than the previous fiscal. But more importantly, we have taken some innovative steps for sustaining the growth,” APL chairperson Jagadish Bhuyan said after the 47th annual general meeting of the company on Friday.These steps include the alternative fuel project set up with Swedish technology.“Countries such as China and Israel are going big on methanol as cooking fuel besides powering trains and vehicles. Methanol is clean and green fuel besides being 30% cheaper than LPG,” Mr. Bhuyan said.APL gets its methanol feedstock from Oil India Limited, which owns 49% stakes of the company where the Assam government is the major player. But 75% of the methanol consumed in India is importedexported.“We are looking at municipal waste and gasification of India’s vast coal reserves to cut down on imports. There are some positive signs in this direction,” APL managing director Ratul Bordoloi said.The production cost of methanol is currently ₹22 per kg. Expansion of APL’s plant is likely to bring down the cost to ₹14-15 per kg.A 1.2-litre canister of methanol would last less than five hours on full flame, and eight hours on low to medium-intensity flame. In terms of heat value, a 14 kg LPG cylinder is equivalent to about 20 kg of methanol, officials said.