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Indian Railways to go for Bio-Diesel in a Big Way
Nov 22, 2014

With a concern for cleaner environment, Indian Railways has decided to promote use of alternative fuels like bio-diesel in a big way for powering its vast fleet of over 4000 Diesel locomotives.

Indian Railways is the single largest bulk consumer of diesel in the country and as mentioned in Railway Budget 2014-15, Indian Railways will start using Bio-Diesel up to 5 percent of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives. This will save precious foreign exchange substantially. Diesel locomotives cater to a large segment of rail traffic in the country, hauling both passenger and freight trains.

Indian Railways consume over two billion litres of diesel every year. For this Railways have to foot a bill of over Rs.15000 crore annually. Therefore, even a small reduction in fuel consumption through blending with Bio-Diesel will result in a substantial savings in the fuel bill.

In addition, the attendant benefits of a cleaner environment would also accrue on account of lower carbon emission, without requiring any change in the locomotive design. Extensive trials have already been conducted by RDSO using bio-diesel in different proportions on railway locomotives and results have been found very encouraging.

Indian Railways initially attempted blending of High Speed Diesel (HSD) with Bio-Diesel extracted from the Jatropha plant. Jatropha oil had been used in India as biodiesel in remote rural and forest communities; Jatropha oil can be used directly after extraction i.e. without refining in diesel generators and engines. Indian Railways will consider exploring possibilities of planting Jatropha plants along the railway tracks. However, these forays by Indian Railways met with limited success.

Indian Railways have also set up an Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels (IROAF) to promote Bio-Diesels and other environmentally benign alternate fuels. Mandate has also been given to facilitate setting up of trans-etherification facilities for converting plant residues into Bio-Diesels. These facilities could be set up in the country on the PPP mode.

To generate interest in bio-diesel, adequate quantities of bio-diesel will have to be made available at competitive and attractive prices. To achieve this, setting up of raw material supply chain would be necessary. This is a big challenge in a country where neither edible oils nor other oils are surplus to the requirement.

In case the availability is unsatisfactory, the interest of common user would not get generated. As of now there is no retail of bio-diesel and thus no network for countrywide availability of bio- diesel. In case it is to be made popular with not only with railways but with road transport also, countrywide distribution and storage infrastructure will have be set up.

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