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DNA Conversations: Conserving energy to safeguard tomorrow

Tuesday, 5 March 2013 - 10:00am IST Updated: Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 10:43pm IST

With energy bills increasing, both for the country as well as the consumer, the one feasible option left for both is to look every more closely at energy conservation. After all, energy requirements are bound to keep increasing.
With energy bills increasing, both for the country as well as the consumer, the one feasible option left for both is to look every more closely at energy conservation.  After all, energy requirements are bound to keep increasing.  The country will have to generate more power, drive more trains, planes and vehicles, and also ships.  All these will require more energy – either through oil, or coal or renewable sources like hydel, solar, biomass gas or wind.
That could cause energy prices to soar further, unless new technologies show the world a cheaper option out.  But in the foreseeable future, the one thing that can be done is to save on fuel costs.
In order to understand this subject better, DNA invited a panel of experts comprising (in alphabetical order) S.S.Bapat, executive director (regional services), regional Level Coordinator, Western Region, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., DKDeshpande, executive director, health safety and environment – corporate, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd, Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust, and A.K..Jain, executive director, chief JV (OG), ONGC,
Edited excerpts of the discussion, moderated by DNA's R N Bhaskar, with editorial support from Radhika Ramaswamy are given below:
DNA: How do you, in your respective capacities look at energy conservation?  Be it from your company’s experience or industry experience, could you tell us the broad scenario from each one’s perspective?
Bapat:  We, in Indian Oil, have taken several initiatives for conservation.  There are two sides to it – conversation per se and options in alternate energy. Indian Oil has taken significant steps towards conserving energy and harnessing indigenous sources of renewable energy, in order to reduce import dependence, minimise adverse environmental impact, lower carbon intensity and contribute to developing a clean, green and healthy environment.

Indian Oil’s foray into renewable energy is aimed not only towards diversification of its energy portfolio but also for alleviating energy poverty and improving energy access in India. The Corporation's commitment to sustainable development and its vision of being the 'Energy of India' have motivated its initiatives into the renewable energy sources such as bio-fuels, wind, and solar & nuclear power.
Indian Oil’s Business Development Group through its Renewable Energy & Sustainable Development [RE&SD] department undertakes various initiatives at the corporate level, like retail outlet solarisation, ecological foot-printing, carbon neutrality, rainwater harvesting, eco-friendly utilization of organic waste, energy audits of office buildings, etc.
DNA: In alternate sources, would you also consider solar as alternative?
Bapat:  Solar, wind, biofuels among others.
DNA:  Okay. So what you do in these areas?
Bapat:  Indian Oil has set up a 21 MW wind power project at Jangi, Gujarat, in 2009. Also, a 73.8 MW wind power project was commissioned in May 2012 in Andhra Pradesh. Indian Oil has also installed a 5 MW solar power project in Rajasthan under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission Phase I Batch I.

Indian Oil has set up a JV company with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. to put up a 2 X 700 MW nuclear power plant at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan with Pressurised Heavy Water Based Reactor (PHWR) technology.

With over 50% of India’s population not having access to electricity, Indian Oil is striving to provide basic energy solutions to the ‘base of the pyramid’ by distributing solar lanterns through its extensive retail network and Kisan Sewa Kendras [farmer support centres] spread across the country.
We are very actively looking after providing solar power in all office complexes.  In fact, our pipeline division has provided solar power in their office complex.  And it’s online.  So during day-time, they use solar power and they have a small battery pack which they use during the nights.
It’s a big project which our pipeline division has launched. We are looking at how other buildings also can be provided with solar energy.
DNA:  Excellent. What about conservation?
Bapat:  Indian Oil’s environmental objective is to reduce its carbon footprint, to become water positive, and to manage waste responsibly. Indian Oil is committed to protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development through Carbon Management, Water Management, Waste Management and Energy Management.
  • Carbon Management at Indian Oil is mostly done through tree plantations. Indian Oil plants close to one lakh trees every year, within and outside its installations and maintains a healthy green-belt area at most of its locations. Indian Oil has also listed six of its projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC).
  • Water Management: To reduce its water footprint, Indian Oil is installing Rainwater Harvesting Systems across its installations.
  • Waste Management: Effluent carrying waste water is readily treated at Indian Oil’s refineries, while further small sewage water treatment projects at other installations are planned to be taken up in near future. The objective is to work towards ‘zero discharge’ from the locations. Further, selling of wastes such as oily sludge, metal, plastic, paper waste etc. to designated vendors across many locations forms a part of responsible waste disposal.  
DNA:  So have you been meeting your targets?
Bapat:  Yes. Our refineries have their internal targets which they have been meeting successfully. The details on their initiatives and the savings accrued are as under:
Rs Lakhs
FUEL SAVING, (Standard Fuel equivalent) MT/year
Conversion of TG-I from condensing type to back-pressure type at Barauni Refinery
Installation of flare gas recovery system at Gujarat Refinery
Step-less control in make-up gas compressor in HCU at Gujarat Refinery
Installation of GT-III with HRSG at Haldia Refinery
VBU economizer coil installation at Haldia Refinery
Use of NG as HGU feed at Mathura Refinery
Hot feed maximization ex AVU-I in DHDS / DHDT at Panipat Refinery
Flare gas recovery in PR-PX & PREP at Panipat Refinery
(Rs Lakh)
36210 (MT/year)
Some of our other initiatives are:
Carbon Management
Installation of Solar Street lights (Internal) in some Bottling Plants and Depots
Installation of Solar Water Heaters at some residential complexes and locations
RO solarization – RO lighting and at some places even fuel dispensing units being done using solar energy.
Switching from conventional bulbs, tube lights, sodium vapor and Metal Halides to CFL, LED, Induction lamps etc. at locations, administrative offices and retail outlets.
Regular plantation of trees within / outside premises
Installation of Energy Efficient (5-star rated) appliances
Energy audits being undertaken at locations and administrative offices
Annual Electrical audits are being undertaken at BPS
Water Management
Rain harvesting at operating and administrative locations. Some of the ROs have also installed RH system. As of 2011-12 end, Rainwater Harvesting systems are in place at about 104  locations
Treating waste water in Effluent Treatment Plants and reusing the water
Installation of Water efficient Plumbing such as low flow water faucets, waterless urinals etc. at locations and administrative offices.
Waste Management
Recycling organic waste in Organic Waste Converters / Composts for further reuse
Selling of recyclable wastes to designated vendors
e-Waste Management through vendor buy-back
Battery  bank replacement through vendor buy back
Bio degradation of oil sludge in most of the operating location wherever permissible
Selling hazardous wastes to designated vendors
Deshpande:  I would like to give some perspective on energy conservation.  The energy conservation initiatives started somewhere when the first major steep crude oil price hike in 1973.  Thereafter a Department for Energy Conversation was formed in the Petroleum Ministry.   As a result, there was a big movement across the oil sector, and very large energy conservation programmes were implemented in the refinery sector.
Our old facilities, which were low efficiency facilities, were converted into high efficiency ones with the World Bank assistance. All our low efficiency furnaces of 60-65% [efficiency], which were there from the vintage days, were upgraded to 90%.  They were the biggest consumers of energy in the refinery in the manufacturing sector.  Then the boilers which are the main energy consumers were upgraded into high efficiency in those days. This happened in the 80s. The energy conversation movement took root from there. The consumer sector also went for awareness campaigns and energy-saving drives, through the Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA). 
As Bapat was saying, there are targets set yearly where energy conservation is a monitored matter.  There is an energy consumption parameter on how much we consume per ton of production.
DNA:  Is this given in your balance sheet or annual report?
Deshpande: In the balance sheet too we give such numbers.  We also do lot of benchmarking studies and we benchmark our facilities to the best in the world. Although we are probably still not up there, we are aiming to improve. 
DNA: Could you quantify the amount you spend on energy conservation?
Deshpande:  We must have spent around Rs.150 crore in those days (in 80s)  to replace furnaces, boilers, etc.
DNA:  What about the expenditure on awareness creation?
Deshpande: We do awareness creation with the community around us.  Internally, we undertake encon [energy conservation] surveys like furnace efficiency, insulation, steam leaks etc. 
Through our continuous efforts at two of our refineries, during last five years, energy savings of 1 lakh Standard Refinery Fuel Ton/year has been realized at an expenditure of about Rs.200 crore.
The major scheme/projects/initiatives undertaken are :
  • Technology improvement, upgradation in furnace maintenance/operations
  • Heat/gas recovery schemes
  • Power generation optimisation
  • Replacements of old drives
Jain:  Much of what Deshpande speaks about  is applicable to all of us, because we all fall under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. One of our major projects is of zero flaring, because as part of processing, gas is a byproduct during production.  So basically you are producing oil, and gas comes along with oil.  So initially, when you want early oil, you may not have created enough facilities to capture the gas that comes in as a byproduct.  Plus there is also an associated phenomenon which is known as technical flare. So our effort is to basically lower that flaring, which will ultimately go towards energy conservation.  It has multiple benefits - you are converting waste gas into monetization numbers and you’re saving the environment. Our experiments with zero flaring; at some places we have been very successful and in some places, we are trying with better technology. Apart from that, all our new buildings are green.
DNA: So besides oil exploration, would you also have wind power and solar power?
Jain: Yes. We have an energy centre in Delhi. We already have a 50 megawatt wind power plant in Gujarat; we are putting up a 100 megawatt plant in Rajasthan. 
DNA: Do zero level flares apply to refineries?
Bapat:  Very much.
Deshpande: We have flare gas recovery systems in our refineries. So what gets flared is very minimal and the flame is required only from safety point of view.
Goenka:  I think we’re looking at energy conservation the wrong way. What is being talked about is improving efficiencies in operational and other processes, which is actually mandatory now because of government regulations and so on.

The more gas you save, the more oil you save, the more money you earn, and the less pollution you create. But the problem here is the government agenda, the planning and the commission. 
We are talking about increasing our power generation capacity from 200,000 megawatt to 800,000, a 300% increase over the next 10 years – that is what the government of India wants to do to the country. Now, if you look at the numbers of alternate energy projects that have been given to us, it’s not even 1% of what there is. And people like me are in fact questioning the need for this kind of expansion that the government is talking about from 200,000 to 800,000 MW. We don’t require this energy.
All that is happening thereafter, downstream, to produce that amount of oil, gas, coal, whether it’s environmentally friendly, whether it’s 80%, 90%, 95% efficiency, that’s a secondary issue.
DNA:  So you’re questioning the primary number itself.
Goenka:  Yes.  So which way do we want to go? Why do we want to go that way? Even a country like America has realised that you cannot have infinite energy indefinitely. And if you bring in the carrying capacity concept to Planet Earth, the way we are going, we will need six Planet Earths to sustain this from an environmental perspective. 
DNA:  What about the per capita consumption of any energy number? We’re way below the international level.
Goenka:  We don’t have to blindly copy what the West has done. The discussion that is going on in the environment circles is that people who are at 20 tonnes per capita emissions per year need to come down to 4 tonnes per capita per year.  We’re at 1.3 tons per capita in India.  We are entitled to go up to four.  But the global thing has to average out at four.  And unless we start talking about all these things, the Americans are not going to do it, and continue to destroy the planet the way they’re going about it.  Second issue is: where is this electricity going?  Building design is another problem. Glasses used in all these buildings are the biggest energy guzzlers. The Government has to actually come out with norms on building designs.
DNA:  Ias anyone looking at biomass gas? India's cattle can produce enough methane to power 26 gigawatts of power.  Even we take one tenth of it, the potential is phenomenon.
Deshpande: Experts who are well versed in alternate energy development are still unanimous in one conclusion that there is no running away from oil, gas and coal, in the foreseeable future.
If mankind has to meet its energy needs, primacy of these three still look unassailable,  Now prudent and efficient use of it is the only thing in our hands. 
But, I feel our awareness campaign or energy conservation has got mixed up.  We are targeting big things all the time and ignoring small elements. Mindsets need to change and energy conservation must start from homes, where there is a vast scope in terms of change of habits and/or mindsets.
Bapat:  The question is do we want to finish off whatever result we have and burn it up as quickly as possible, or do we want to save something for the next several generations? When you are talking about – carbon – it’s going to run out sooner or later.  Sooner, if you go about it the way we are going; later, if we slow down things and use it with care, and leave something behind for future generation.  But what happens then?  And today we are talking about climate change and global warming.  We are talking of a target of 350 BPM CO2.  We are already at 420 levels.  So it’s not a question of increasing further production or burning for the carbon.  It’s actually reducing.  I am not talking of India, now I am talking globally.
Goenka:  The only country which has done remarkable work in the field of energy conservation is Germany in both solar and carbon capture.
And to go back to your point about biogas. The most efficient solar cell is a plant or a tree that grows on its own without any kind of funding or whatever and is sustainable.  What we are doing, in our quest to generate 800,000 megawatts, is that we are destroying our forests and our natural eco-system
Deshpande:  I feel our awareness campaign on energy conservation has got a bit mixed up.  We are targeting big things all the time and ignoring small elements. Mindsets need to change and energy conservation must start from home. Almost 90% of India does not pay its energy bills. As a result, nobody cares about energy conservation.
Jain:  Don’t you think that energy should be priced properly? I will be very careful if I’m paying for it. Since the quality of life has gone up, the energy consumption has also increased. Today, a lot of energy is likely to be put to better use if priced properly. The Government should put in place a market-driven pricing mechanism for better utilization of energy, hence reducing wastage.
Deshpande:  The human mind is so ingenious that whatever you legislate, there are enough people who find ingenious way of circumventing that.  For instance, the diesel price increase - bulk suppliers are asked to pay full. So, within a couple of days since this announcement, everybody has shifted to retail purchases from the petrol pump.
There is some energy required at the basic level and there is some energy required at aspirational level.
Jain:  Moreover, what you are considering as waste may not be so for somebody else. 
Goenka:  There’s one fact I wish to emphasise.  For every unit of water or electricity you consume, you are actually using 30% of the energy that was stored in carbon, 70% is just wasted in truck transport, generation, transmission, etc.
Bapat:  Take LPG pricing. There is total chaos in market. There are four prices for one cylinder.
Goenka:  It is difficult for everybody.  It is difficult for customer, companies and distributors to manage. 
DNA:  Multiple pricing levels for the same fuel, and absence of proper law enforcement and accountability – these aggravate the issue. There seems to more awareness about energy conservation at the corporate level, isn't it?
Deshpande:  There is a discipline at the corporate level. What is difficult is to manage motley crowds. It is complex and diverse. So, there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done to create awareness at the grassroots level.
Bapat:  Companies have a CSR budget introduced for this kind of thing.
DNA: Can we educate people about the real cost of energy? For instance do common people know that the cost of power at a village level is actually Rs.12 per unit, though he pays less than Rs.1.20.
Bapat:  On our part, I had organized a seminar in the Konkan area [in Maharashtra]. According to me, the Konkan region is the best place for using alternate sources of energy. I conducted a seminar to popularize the need for alternate energy amongst the opinion makers of Ratnagiri, Rajapur. I got them together and briefed them about the usefulness of solar and wind energy. 
Creating awareness among general public regarding energy conservation is extremely essential and crucial. Successful implementation of energy conservation plans lies in the attitudinal change of people, as well as the willingness of industries and communities alike to adopt sustainable technologies. Indian Oil conducts regular workshops and training programmes to generate awareness about sustainability issues.
Goenka:  The sectors that waste too much energy are private transportation and poor building design.
Bapat:  I agree with your point of building design.  There has to be a statute.  It has to be made compulsory by maybe introducing a National Building Code. At least 20% of the energy should be generated by use of solar panels in all buildings using glass facades.
We are designing three green buildings in Western India – Mumbai, Indore and Ahmedabad.
Deshpande: We have green buildings in Hyderabad, Vizag and Chennai. All our new facilities are green.
DNA:  What about ONGC?
Jain:  As a policy, in ONGC, all new buildings being constructed will be green.
Bapat:  About the use of cow dungs – bio gas plants are being shut everywhere.
Goenka:  I will tell you why that is happening because stall-feeding of cattle is not happening in this country. Cows are allowed to graze all over the place.  They are destroying the forest.  No regeneration is taking place.  And it is the poorest people in village who have to collect the cow dung. We need a policy decision to give incentives to villages for promoting stall-feeding of cattle.
Gujarat is the only state which has started a Gobar Bank two years ago, where people are allowed to pick the dung, get credits in terms of cash or fertilizer or both. No other state has followed this because dung collection is a problem. Here, you’re buying energy at a fractional price.
DNA:  What should the government do to make energy conservation much more meaningful?
Bapat:  Petroleum Conservation Research Association [PCRA] observes Oil & Gas Conservation Fortnight every year. The focus is on conducting workshops, seminars, various competitions etc. to create awareness about conservation. Although PCRA conducts various activities related to conservation throughout the year, they need to involve other organizations as well, and throughout the year, for conservation-related activities.
Each one of us needs to practice the 3 R’s of sustainability, which are – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to protect, preserve & present a clean, green and healthy planet both for the present and for future generations to come. Energy Conservation should not merely be a mantra, but a practice.
Deshpande:  The Government is conscious of the challenges and has a policy that conservation means the better and efficient utilization of petroleum products.  To ensure healthy growth of petroleum / hydrocarbon sector, one of the objectives is to remove subsidies and cross subsidies to promote efficient and optimum utilization of scarce hydrocarbon resources.  The Government is very well aware and it is moving in that direction.
Jain: Energy, as long as is continued to be priced improperly, will not permit a proper perspective. Utilising energy as a tool for distributing social or economic gains, is something that is out of the domain of energy conservation.  Then, your focus is not energy conservation or proper use of energy. You should leave energy to its own economics. Energy should be market determined. You should pay for what you use.
DNA:  So, that again comes to pricing.
Jain: Somebody who uses 100 units of electricity pays lesser price for electricity than the person who uses 200 or 500 units of electricity. But what happens when people use electricity and they don’t pay? There is also the question of enforcement of policies that already exist.
Deshpande:  The Government is very well aware and they are moving in that direction. Efficient consumption can be promoted through proper mechanism of prices.
Jain: I agree with you.  It can be slab-wise, different for different strata.
DNA: Or the simplest way is the Aadhar way, give 5 rupees to everybody who has targeted subsidy.
Deshpande: Ways to achieve energy consumption are pricing, awareness, incentives, etc..  But household as a unit is still not a focus area. We are still caught with the big picture concept of things. Industry is a big consumer, but what about the domestic sector.
DNA: At the consumer level, would you know how much of misdirection or misuse of kerosene takes place? Any estimates?
Jain:   As per some reports it is as high as 90% in certain pockets. But,  I think kerosene is a non-issue now.  The bigger issue is we are unable to handle electricity theft, which is  large.
[As a result of such theft] efficient work places are becoming non-viable. [To remedy this] those who are in distribution companies have to be very efficient, so that they can buy higher, good quality capacitors, good quality transformers, prevent distribution losses. For that, they need the money. To have the money, they have to charge the customers. 
Today, ONGC is paying so much  subsidy.  The day is not far when subsidies will start eating our profits to such an extent that it can start impacting our growth. 
Deshpande:  Stolen electricity is not a waste.  It’s a theft.  Electricity is being used here.  There is a difference.
DNA:  Stolen electricity is used recklessly, as with agricultural pumpsets. As a result, you have leeching of the soil, wastage of water, and wastage of electricity.  There are triple losses.
Goenka:  The same logic is water in Bombay.  If you would ask the BMC, they would say 30% of the water is lost in transmission and distribution, but out of 30%, 25% goes to tankers. It’s a loss of revenue, but is not wastage in that typical sense.
Deshpande:  But it is an inefficient usage.

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