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Indian oil: a global energy company

Indian Oil’s R&D Centre is India’s foremost centre of research excellence in various areas of lubricants and refinery processes, Puja Banerjee in conversation with the Director finds out more.

 Agencies |  2017-11-11 14:39:22.0

Indian Oil has a sprawling world-class R&D Centre that is perhaps Asia's finest. This is India's foremost centre of research excellence in the areas of lubricants, refinery processes, pipeline transportation; alternative energy, fuel additives, engine testing, materials sciences and environmental sciences. Excerpts from an interview with Dr SSV Ramakumar, Director, IndianOil (R&D).

As a head of the premier R&D institute in the country, what are your key priorities?
SERVO is the market leader in the field of lubricants. In an open market, our research efforts are going to align towards maintaining the numero uno position in the lubricant business. This would include translating the advanced lubricant chemistries to achieve higher fuel economy from the engines, contributing in the reduction of GHG emissions through lubricants and offering a wide spectrum of packages meeting the customised demands of different futuristic propulsion technologies.
Transforming Indian Oil and its R&D from a Technology adopter to Technology provider.
Pursue cutting-edge research in the area of refinery and petrochemical catalysts through nanotechnology interventions.
Enhancing the supply chain of the biofuels through innovative pathways especially for producing ethanol for blending in gasoline.
Undertake focused research in the domain of alternative energy sources -- be it solar, hydrogen, battery etc to realise our ambition of emerging as a globally admired energy company.
With the emerging BS-VI scenario, what contributions do you expect IndianOil R&D to make to meet the deadlines?
Cutting-edge Refinery Technology development and commercialisation are some of the most important facets of our research portfolio. Stringent targets imposed on the fuel quality under BS VI regime needs customisation and optimisation of the processes. Every refinery has its own challenges to overcome for meeting the BS VI quality fuel targets. IOC R&D is gearing itself to deploy many of its indigenously developed technologies for meeting the standards. We have developed a novel process Octamax for production of high-octane gasoline blending stock. The first commercial Octamax unit will be set-up at Mathura Refinery (MR) during the current Fiscal for production of BS VI gasoline.
Our in-house developed technology "INDAdeptG", has been installed at Guwahati refinery for producing <10 ppm sulphur gasoline. We are working on series of other technologies like "indSelectG, indDSN etc to produce BS VI quality fuels/products. In order to produce ultra-clean diesel, IOC R&D is banking upon its proprietary indediesel technology, which was successfully adopted at Bongaigaon Refinery and JR to produce 10 ppm sulphur containing BS-VI quality diesel fuel.
What are the kinds of greenhouse gas emissions that BS-VI norms can address and what is their stipulated level of preventing noxious gases compared to BS-IV norms?
BS VI fuels are going to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions especially carbon dioxide, unburnt hydrocarbons/methane and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). With a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 310, NOx compounds are critical species promoting the global warming. For heavy-duty vehicles, the BS VI would produce 86 per cent lower NOx emissions as compared to BS IV. This coupled with 65 per cent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions, will have a knock-down effect on CO2 emissions. For the gasoline passenger cars, 25 per cent reduction would be achieved in NOx, while diesel passenger cars would be emitting 68 per cent fewer NOx emissions. Further, BS VI norms propose stringent regulations on CH4 emissions for CNG vehicles and the latest CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for passenger cars have been affected from April 2017 in order to limit CO2. The CAFE standards notified by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Ministry of Power, would be implemented for heavy-duty vehicles manufactured from 1st April 2018.
What are the various ingredients in BS-VI fuel that makes it a better fuel to use?
The sulphur content in BS-VI fuels would be reduced from 50 ppm to 10 ppm. The lower sulphur in the fuel will permit the use of advanced after-treatment devices (ATDs) used for reducing harmful exhaust emissions like CO, HC, NOx and Particulate Matter. With the use of these fuels, PM and HC emissions from heavy-duty vehicles would reduce by 50 per cent and 65 per cent respectively. The efficacy and durability of Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) will increase with the use of BS VI fuels.
Please specify some of the the advantages of INDMAX in the refining sector.
These days INDMAX has become synonymous with Indian Oil R&D centre. INDMAX has derived its name from "Indane (Indian Oil LPG) Maximisation" which is aimed at increasing the LPG yield in the refineries. The process also induces flexibility in operation as in case if there is a decrease in the demand for LPG, the same unit can produce propylene which is a petrochemical precursor.
We started the INDMAX story by setting up a commercial unit of 0.1 MMTPA at Guwahati Refinery. The second unit of 4.17 MMTPA capacity based on INDMAX technology has been set up at IndianOil's latest refinery at Paradip, Odisha. The unit has been designed to produce ethylene, propylene and C4 stream to cater the feedstock to MEG, Polypropylene and Alkylation units respectively. The innovation of the INDMAX technology comes through a proprietary multifunctional catalyst with high metal tolerance and higher selectivity towards the desired products, which works in concert under tailor-made process conditions. The technology has the ability to process a variety of feedstocks ranging from vacuum gas oil to residue and also, unmatched flexibility to operate in wide range of severity in order to maximise the most desired products enhancing the unit profitability.
The recent declaration of INDMAX as the winner amongst 120 competing global technologies at the World Petroleum Congress 2017 held at Istanbul, Turkey is the testimony of the technical prowess of IndianOil R&D as an emerging technology provider.
Ethanol has been long associated with Gasoline as a blending component. What are challenges faced and how is IndianOil R&Dplanning to overcome them?
Economic development alone is no longer viewed as a strategy for poverty reduction and well being of society. It has been recognised that a society's economic goals are intricately intertwined with its social and environmental goals. This realisation is also the guiding force behind Indian Oil's commitment to building a strong sustainable business that is firmly rooted in the community, demonstrating concern for the environment. The Government, through Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs), is implementing the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme under which, OMCs sell ethanol blended petrol with a percentage of ethanol up to 10 per cent. However, there are supplies side challenges as far as 1st generation ethanol is concerned. IOC R&D has developed a technology for producing ethanol from other non-food feedstocks, like ligno-cellulosic biomass.
The 10 TPD plant based on indigenous technology is being planned to be set up at Mathura Refinery. Moreover, to overcome the ethanol deficit, Indian Oil in collaboration with M/s Lanzatech, USA has embarked upon World's 1st project to convert off-gas streams to ethanol using microbial route. A 30,000 ton per annum ethanol plant using this technology is being set up at Panipat Refinery which is expected to commission by 2019.
What are your initiatives in the areas of Alternative energy and nanotechnology?
Indian Oil is committed to providing clean and green energy options. We at Indian Oil R&D are working on various facets of alternative energy including solar, gasification, hydrogen production and storage, HCNG, fuel cells, and batteries. Collaborative programs with leading OEMs in the country and national and international research institutes are underway in the field of alternative and renewable energy. In order to expand the horizon and strengthen our efforts in this area, a new Indian Oil Centre for Alternative and Renewable Energy (iCARE) has been planned in Faridabad.
Over the past few years, nanotechnology has evolved as a frontier area of research with potential commercial/industrial applications. The research activities are focused on the adoption of nanotechnology interventions in different product platforms related to fuels, lubricants, and catalysts to achieve superior performance characteristics. One of the nano-additized products developed is Indane NANOCUT; which is currently being produced and marketed by IOCL. The future of petroleum industry shall be profusely influenced by nanotechnology interventions.
IndianOil R&D has spearheaded the Start-up initiative of Oil Sector. Can you share something more on this?
Inline with directives of Govt of India and MoP&NG, IOCL had setup Indian Oil startup fund with a corpus of Rs 30 crores for incubation of innovative ideas in Technology Process and Business Process areas in Oil & Gas sector. Ideas were invited through an advertisement on the web portal www.indianoilstartupfund.com launched in Dec 2016. During the first round which concluded in April 2017, a huge response in terms of applications in the areas of Business Process Re-engineering and Technology Process Re-engineering was received. Through a selection by a committee of experts from external renowned incubation centres besides various domains within Indian Oil, 11 proposals have been shortlisted for incubation. The projects were awarded to selected incubatees in October 2017 in the august presence of Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Skill Development, Dharmedra Pradhan ji. The selected projects will be mentored by the expert process owners for establishing proof of concept.
Can you throw some light on the CSR activities of IndianOil R&D?
As a responsible corporate citizen, this centre has adopted a village named Dhulepur, 25 kilometres from Faridabad. We have given them the solar lanterns which have been developed in the centre. Additionally, it has also constructed cattle sheds which is their only livelihood. We are also embarking on Skill Development of the youth of the village to make them self-dependent and trying to increase the general standard of living. We are also trying to deploy certain technologies that we have developed, which includes fuel-efficient gas appliances. This would enable combustion efficiency to be in a good condition, thereby making the village smoke free. To develop Faridabad as a Smart City, a 5 MT per day bio-methanation plant based on the indigenously developed technology is being set-up at in association with Municipal Corporation Faridabad. This plant would be producing bio-methane for cooking purposes from kitchen waste produced in the city.
All these initiatives are the sub-system of a broader vision of our government. It strives for sustainable development that would lead to economic growth, social equity, and efficient management of resources and environment. Indian Oil's Sustainability and CSR vision is to operate its activities in providing energy solutions to its customers in a manner that is efficient, safe, and ethical, minimising the negative impact on the environment and enhancing the quality of life of the community towards sustaining a holistic business.

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