Q&A with Mr. Abhirat Agrawal of Nepal’s EnviPower, about their transformational project to convert ‘Waste to Wealth’

Q. Tell us about your transformational project to convert “Waste to Wealth”. How did the idea come about, and your journey to develop this into a workable solution?

A. Since my under-graduation days at Christ University, Bangalore, I always wanted to get into renewable energy, particularly hydro power. By the time I moved back to Nepal, I came to know that commissioning such a plant is an extremely lengthy process. It could take as long as ten years. Moreover, the Nepalese government policies at that time offered minimal scope on solar and wind. At that time, the idea of biogas to bio-methane came to me. After conducting a proper market survey and due processes, we started the construction of such a processing plant in Bhairahawa. We also visited a number of plants in Germany, which helped us get a good idea of how to run a biogas plant, its issues and advantages.

Q. Tell us about the pros and cons of this process. Where can it be used finally? 

A. The process that we have incorporated to purify the biogas is top-of-the-line technology. This helps us maximise the methane recovery – 97% recovery to be precise. The end-product can be used for vehicular application, cooking purposes (as a replacement for LPG), gas cutting application for metals, etc. The only issue of this process is the weight of the cylinder. It is almost 79 kg. wherein we fill only 12 kg. of gas.

Q. What are the commercials like? How does the cost compare between using vs. not using a product like this?

A. The project is quite feasible considering the time-to-time shortage of LPG in a country like Nepal. Of course, we are still in process to achieve the financials we had estimated on paper, but we are hopeful of the project to be a commercial success in the long-run.

Q. Is your project a workable business model to achieve triple bottom-line?

A. Biogas to power or biogas to bio-methane plants are the only source of renewable energy wherein one can achieve over 95% PLF (plant load factor). This means the plant is running at full capacity for 95% of the time. Biogas is a more reliable source of energy in comparison to other sources of renewable energy. A key factor driving attention towards biogas is that we are turning waste to wealth – essentially anything that a cow can digest can be digested in a biogas plant.

Q. Sustainability has to start from agriculture. What do you think are the urgent areas that need attention when it comes to agriculture?

A. In a developing country like Nepal, majority of the people are involved in agriculture for their livelihood. The biggest challenge they face is of proper infrastructure and the lack of heavy-duty equipment. Till date, most farmers use traditional methods which are labour intensive as compared to using machines. The government has to play an important role in the development of agriculture in Nepal, be it through further subsidy to the farmers, further promotion of local harvests compared to imported grains and pulses, etc. If these things are taken care of, then the agriculture sector can benefit a lot.

Q. How do you think we can use environmental diplomacy to engage with other developing countries? What is your opinion?

A. On environmental diplomacy, there are a lot of seminars and conferences conducted each year on renewable energy attended by delegates of several countries. These seminars and conferences have to lead to concrete action-plans and deals on the ground. Else most of them will only remain talk-shops. If that happens, it would help all those countries who are currently lagging in conserving their environment. Nepal and India have a good understanding when it comes to renewable energy, and India’s MNRE has been of utmost help to the Nepalese renewable energy department. Likewise, if other countries also approach those who have done well in this space, then we can all develop together and save our environment.

Q. Lastly, tell us about your future plans and projects? 

A. Since this is a huge untapped sector, we have set up a consultancy firm for constructing biogas plants for other clients across Nepal. Recently, we have taken up a project of 4,000 per day. This is a biogas to bio-methane plant in Nawalpur. Our future plan is to trap the CO2 during the gas-upgrading process and purify the same for use in the beverage and dry ice industries.

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