‘With this biorefinery we will ensure that tanneries across the country do not discharge any kind of solid waste. There will not be any waste to be discharged because we will use it as raw materials’, Palani Shanmugam, the CLRI scientist who designed the refinery told DNA.

Tanneries across the country have been a major cause of environmental pollution and ground water contamination. Ground water in the entire Ranipet, Ambur and Vellore regions is contaminated due to the presence of toxic materials in the solid waste from the tanneries.

Shanmugam has devised a chemical process which extracts biodiesel, bioethanol, biohydrogen and biomethane from the solid waste. It took him 15 years of research to design the refinery.

‘One ton of solid waste from the tannery will yield 200 litres of biodiesel, 200 litres of bioethanol, 120 cubic metres of bio-hydrogen and 200 cubic metres of methane. The cost of producing a litre of diesel through this process will be Rs 20 ($0.36),’ said Shanmugan. The entire solid waste will be consumed by the refinery. The water received at the end of the process could be used for gardening, he said.

Dr D K Mandal Director, CLRI, drove his car which was fuelled by the biodiesel produced at Shanmugam’s laboratory scale plant. The pilot plant which consumes two tons per day solid waste is being set up in Ranipet, 200km away from Chennai, with financial assistance offered by the union government. ‘The pilot plant will cost us Rs70 lakh (US$12.8 million). We can tell with authority that the environmental hazards due to solid waste from tanneries will be a thing of the past,’ said Shanmugam.

While biohydrogen could be used to generate power through fuel cells, the biodiesel, biomethane and bioethanol could be used to run automobiles and as cooking gas,’ said Shanmugam. He said tanneries spread across the country generate 2,400 tons of solid waste per day. ‘This entire waste could be used to generate power, biodiesel and cooking gas without producing any green house gases or waste of any kind,’ said Shanmugam.

Source: Daily News and Analysis