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Punjab to convert 0.1m tube wells from diesel to biogas

The Punjab government has designed a plan to convert about 100,000 agriculture tube wells from diesel to biogas in the next five years in a bid to save energy resources and promote biogas technology in the province, The Express Tribune has learnt.

To encourage farmers to opt for cheap alternative energy, the government will bear 50% of the conversion cost which will be in the range of Rs200,000 to Rs400,000 for a tube well based on technology and capacity.

A successful end of the drive would help save Rs30 billion on diesel consumption annually and help farmers irrigate their land at a low cost, a government official said. This would be the first project of its kind in the agriculture sector and would have a salutary effect on the environment in rural areas, he said.

Punjab Agriculture Secretary Dr Ijaz Munir, while confirming the plan, said his department would give a presentation to the chief minister soon for his approval. Work on the project would start next year, he added.

Munir said the project was being undertaken after a comprehensive study to save energy and utilise animal waste for productive purposes. The government would ensure transparency in the process and facilitate farmers in adopting biogas technology, he said.

Two types of technology including Frothy Drum and Fixed Dome can be used to switch over from diesel-powered tube wells to biogas. The provincial government will invite expressions of interest from interested companies, leave it to the farmers to select the company and pay directly to the technology provider.

According to documents, there are 32 million cows and buffaloes owned by small and big farmers in the province. These animals are producing 117 million tons of dung annually. If half of the total is used to produce gas, then the waste will produce 2.93 billion cubic metres of gas annually.

According to estimates, 25 to 40 cubic metres of gas is required to run a tube well. In both the technologies, 80% of energy will come from biogas and 20% from diesel.

A tube well eats up 2.25 litres of diesel per hour, but after reliance on biogas, diesel consumption will come down to 0.45 litre per hour. “This way, 288 million litres of diesel is expected to be saved every year,” the official said.

In monetary terms, savings are estimated at Rs30 billion per annum if 100,000 tube wells are switched over to biogas in the next five years.

According to agriculture census, farmers operate 1.1 million tube wells across the province for watering their crops. Of these, 110,000 are powered by electricity and 900,000 are run on diesel.

The Punjab government has earmarked Rs7 billion in the annual budget for doling out subsidy in several areas including tube wells, an official of the Finance Department said.

The Agriculture Department hopes that biogas plants installed with tube wells will help produce organic manure rich in nutrients, which will save the money spent on fertilisers.

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