As India prepares for a green future, the country’s oil refineries are also marching lockstep in that direction. The BPCL Kochi refinery, currently undergoing a large expansion to 15.5 Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA) is a case in point. The Union government is planning to give a go ahead to the refinery to process agricultural and other waste materials into ethanol that will then be blended with petrol.
Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the refinery in Kochi on 23rd September, Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said the government would give the green signal for BPCL-KRL to set up of a waste-to- energy ethanol plant.
Consumption of petroleum products in the country is growing at a rapid pace
The state-of-the-art facility, estimated to cost Rs 500 crore will process agricultural wastes and other organic wastes in to energy by blending the processed material with petrol not exceeding 10 per cent in the fuel. “The technology for such plants is available aplenty and BPCL is scouting for the most suitable option to meet its requirement”, Mr. Pradhan said. The minister said the project is part of the corporate social responsibility obligations of BPCL.
The project is also part of the efforts by the Union Government to reduce the country’s dependence on imports for fuels, he said adding that the government plans to bring down imports by at least 10 per cent by the time the country celebrates the 75th Independence Day. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a target in this regard”, Mr. Pradhan said.
At the moment the BPCL-Kochi Refinery Ltd is in the midst of a large capacity expansion that is expected to be completed soon. Once that project is completed, BPCL Kochi is all set to become one of the largest refineries in the country by the end of the year. When viewed along with the waste blending plant, Kochi will become the catalyst for the concept of a “green refinery” in the country.
The Kochi Refinery Ltd, as BPCL Kochi was then known, was commissioned by the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1966. The refinery is now close to another milestone in its momentous journey towards one of the largest of its kind in the country with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to commission the Integrated Refinery Capacity Expansion Project (IREP) in December.
In the financial year 2015-16, the consumption of petroleum products was 185 million tonnes
With the commissioning of this venture, the company will be able to provide BS-IV and BS-V quality fuel products. The Rs 24,500 crore project the single largest investment of its kind in the history of Kerala, is also expected to have a multiplier impact on the economy of the state that has for long been seeking a strong economic base commensurate with its achievements in human development.
The commissioning will open the way for a slew of downstream ventures in and around the company. BPCL Kochi refinery itself is planning to set up a Rs 4,800 crore petrochemical complex with the completion of the capacity expansion project. Apart from that the state government is also planning to establish projects that will use raw materials derived from the capacity expansion. The state government is also planning to set up a major power project using pet coke as feedstock.
In 2016-17 this is expected to touch 200 million tonnes
Another major advantage of the completion of the project is that it will make Kerala and most other South Indian states self sufficient in petroleum products. The state will become self sufficient in LPG with the commissioning of the IREP, a senior official at the refinery said. “The menace of bullet tankers carrying LPG through the narrow and congested roads of Kerala may come to an end by the end of December”, he said. BPCL and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd have already signed a pact to pump out excess LPG from the plant to pipeline network to Coimbatore and Salem in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
The Kochi refinery has come a long way since its initial capacity of 2.5 MMTPA in 1966. In the years since then demand for petrol, diesel and other petrochemicals have grown by leaps and bounds. In this Kochi has kept pace with the demand scenario especially in Southern states.
Through its many rounds of capacity expansion and innovative adoption of technology, the aim of the refinery and BPCL has been to keep pace with these developments.
Unlike many other refineries where expansion plans are often hit due to paucity of resources required for investment and other significant bottlenecks like lack of land availability. In Kochi, land is not a problem according to BPCL chairman S Varadarajan.
“With land acquisition becoming one of the biggest hurdles in new projects, we may look at further increasing the Kochi capacity to 22 MT at a later stage as we have enough land there even after the ongoing Rs 16,5000 crore work,” Varadarajan recently said. But this plan is still in the future and no timeline has been given for it.
India is the third largest consumer of petroleum products
There is general agreement that large refineries have economies of scale that are necessary for the development of refining companies both in the public and the private sector. In fact the world’s largest refinery—which is in the private sector--is now in operation at Jamnagar in Gujarat. There is no reason why the Kochi refinery and BPCL cannot aim big and win.
Coffee Table Book on BPCL-KRL released
The Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan released a coffee table book that has captured milestones in the 50-years history of BPCL Kochi refinery at a glittering function held at the refinery campus on 23 September. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurian, the chief guest at the inaugural function of the golden jubilee celebrations, received a copy of the book titled ‘Midas Touch’ from the minister. Public Accounts Committee Chairman and Member of Parliament from Ernakaulam, Prof. KV Thomas, and state electricity minister Kadakampally Surendran and several other dignitaries were present at the inaugural function as well as the book release. S Varadarajan, Chairman and Managing Director of BPCL, welcomed the gathering.
Skill development centre
BPCL in collaboration with Kerala government will set up a skill development institute in Kottayam as part of its corporate social responsibility project. The support of other oil companies will also be solicited for the project. The state government will provide eight acres of land at Ettumanoor for establishing the institute. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters in Kochi that a framework agreement has been signed with the state government for the project. The course is expected to commence this November.