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“Zero Spentwash Discharge has a business case in Distillery industry"

In conversation with Sustainability Outlook, Mr V.N. Raina, Director-General, All India Distillers` Association, shares his thoughts on sustainability challenges for the distilleries in India, potential of the industry to achieve Zero Spentwash Discharge (ZSD) and outlook for the industry.


What are the resource sustainability challenges being faced by distillery sector in India?

Nearly 70-80% of distilleries have already achieved Zero Spentwash Discharge

Distillery is a red category industry, which implies that they are highly polluting and in absence of proper treatment of the effluent, it may result in extensive environmental damage. Moreover, with the acute problem of water scarcity plaguing the entire nation, the major challenge for the industry is to be efficient in use of this vital resource. The mandate for Zero Spentwash Discharge is a manifestation of the growing need for various industries to monitor their resource usage. Distillery industry is cognizant of the challenges like the exorbitant investment required to attain the status of Zero Spentwash Discharge unit and are taking it in the right spirit and focusing on achieving compliance to the norms laid down by the government. Nearly 70-80% of distilleries across the entire nation have already achieved Zero Spentwash Discharge.  Another indicator as to how determined the sector is to be efficient in terms of water usage is evident from the fact that earlier the industry consumed nearly 15-20 litres of fresh water per 1 litre of alcohol production which got reduced to 10-12 litres per litre of alcohol and the aim is to reduce it to 5-6 litres/litre of alcohol, which they are likely to achieve in the next 2-3 years. Hence, there are challenges in front of the industry but, it is determined to take the challenge in its stride and establish an example for sustainable industrial production.


What are the different technologies that can be used to achieve ZSD in distillery sector?

The two major pathways to achieve ZSD in the molasses based distillery are bio-composting and incineration. Incineration of the concentrated spentwash is highly capital intensive and practical difficulties like clinker formation, choking makes the technology less preferable. There is steam and power generation by the incinerator which may partially or completely burn on the slop generated and is self-sustaining after an initial stabilization period but it is likely to increase the carbon footprint due to emissions. Although, there are some difficulties associated with the technology and needs an investment of nearly INR 40-50crore for a 50KLD distillery, yet approximately 10% of the molasses based distillery units have adopted the technology, primarily due to unavailability of space. 

Industries were asked to cover the bio-composting land, which would have incurred an additional cost of INR 40-50 lakhs per acre of land and was a huge blow to the industry. However, we have successfully managed to sort out the issue.

The second and more widely adopted technology is going in for bio-composting. The spent-wash with reduced BOD (Bio-chemical   Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) from the digester, is made to pass through Reverse Osmosis, followed by   Multiple Effect Evaporator. The spentwash hence concentrated to about 40% is mixed with press mud from the sugar industry in approximately 2:1 ratio and allowed to dry for a cycle of 40-45 days. The bio-enriched compost thus formed is high in nutrient content and can be sold in the market. Hence, it generates additional revenue for the industry. The only important factor is requirement of land and if the distillery unit has enough land, then this is the most appropriate solution. However, there was an issue with bio-composting when the policy stipulated the distilleries to cover the land used for bio-composting. This would have incurred an additional cost of INR 40-50 lakhs per acre of land and was a huge blow to the industry as even small plant would have needed to cover 20-25 acres of land. However, we have successfully managed to sort out the issue.


Does Zero Liquid Discharge have a business case in context to distillery sector in India? Does it differ for grain based and molasses based? 

Achieving Zero Spentwash Discharge requires a huge upfront investment and the operating expenditure increases by INR 4-5/litre of alcohol produced in case of bio-composting and INR 6-8/litre of alcohol produced in case of incineration. However, unlike many other industries, in our case, ZSD has a business case due to the additional revenue generated from sale of bio-compost

Achieving Zero Spentwash Discharge requires a huge upfront investment and the operating expenditure increases by INR 4-5/litre of alcohol produced in case of bio-composting and INR 6-8/litre of alcohol produced in case of incineration. However, unlike many other industries, in our case, ZSD has a strong business case. Not only would our fresh water consumption reduce to 5-6 litres/litre of alcohol produced, but would also help us generate some additional revenue and save on the fuel cost. The industry is water intensive and we are aware there would be dire consequences if appropriate steps are not taken. Hence, we as a responsible industry are taking the necessary steps to achieve Zero Spentwash Discharge.

As for the grain based distilleries, achieving ZSD is relatively easy. This is a result of comparatively low organic load in the effluent and also significantly low colour. The grain based distilleries usually use grains like rice, sorghum, etc. as the raw material. The grain stillage is made to go through a series of steps, thus producing wet cake and separating thin liquor. The thin slop is evaporated producing concentrated effluent which is mixed with the wet cake and used as a cattle feed due to its high nutrient content and the condensate is reused in the process.  

 


What’s your outlook for distillery sector in India?

The industry earlier consumed nearly 15-20 litres of fresh water per litre of alcohol production which got reduced to 10-12 litres per litre of alcohol and the aim is to reduce it to 5-6 litres/litre of alcohol, which they are likely to achieve in the next 2-3 years. Hence, there are challenges in front of the industry but, it is determined to take the challenge in its stride and establish an example for sustainable industrial production.

I believe that the industry is striving to get sustainable. We have considerably reduced our water intake; even the fuel consumption is minimal due to the use of biogas from the digester. It is evident, that as an industry we are taking the necessary steps to achieve sustainable production and reduce our environmental footprint. The ZSD mandate has catalyzed the process and I am sure that in a mere 2 years, the industry would not only reduce its fresh water consumption by as much as 50% but also shift to more sustainable production practices.

 

 

 

In continuation  of our work in the domain of Zero Liquid Discharge, Sustainability Outlook has recently released "March to Sustainability: Zero Liquid Discharge", a primer for Zero Liquid Discharge in India, which describes the current scenario, illustrates the outlook for 2020 and quantifies the market opportunity with a focus on three highly polluting and water intensive industries, i.e. Textile (wet processing), Distillery (molasses based) and Pulp & Paper (large wood based). 

To know more about the report click here or write to us at mait@sustainabilityoutlook.in