Pics: Dayanand Kukkaje
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Feb 15: Climate change is one of the most crucial issues facing the planet today. Governments and corporates around the world are taking up measures to ensure sustainable development. The rapid deterioration of forest cover and glaciers is a reminder that we need to take urgent action at the individual level to minimise our energy consumption. Corporates have a vital role to play in reducing carbon footprint and ensuring long-term solutions that revive the planet while maintaining economic growth.
In this front, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) has taken the lead both in terms of sustainable development and reduction of energy consumption. The company on January 15 launched a month-long campaign called 'SAKSHAM' to create awareness on the importance of judicious use of fuel, emphasizing ways to reduce energy consumption in households and daily life. A premier organization of Karnataka and a world-class refinery that caters to the country's fuel and energy needs, MRPL has silently evolved into a responsible entity which, instead of depending on import of petrol and diesel, produces the cleanest fuel required in our country with the mission to help keep our environment and surroundings clean.
Daijiworld in an exclusive interview spoke to Sanjay Varma, Director (Refinery) of MRPL regarding the ongoing SAKSHAM campaign, and to learn more about the steps taken by the company to conserve and improve the environment.
DW: What are the objectives SAKSHAM campaign? What activities have you conducted so far to create awareness?
SV: SAKSHAM is the acronym for Samrakshan Kshamata Mahotsav. We are affiliated to the Petroleum Ministry of the Government of India. The Petroleum Ministry also has a Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA), which conducts an awareness programme on energy conservation every year from January 15 to February 15. It is celebrated en masse across India. The idea is this - In India we do not have crude oil production to meet our demand. We import 80-85% of the crude from abroad, mostly from the Gulf. Our production is meagre - just 20% and now slightly growing. So basically we are a huge nation with a good, sizeable population, and energy security is very important. What this entire campaign does is, it tries to sensitize people about the efficient, effective usage of energy, and how to minimise wastage. Apart from that, we also impress upon the necessity to save fuel and energy, and how it will be useful in future.
When we consume energy there is impact on the environment. For instance, the vehicles in which we commute emanate sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide etc, which contribute to the global warming. So we should be aware of how we can reduce the consumption of fuels and burn them in a more efficient manner. We also advocate carpooling wherever possible. On January 31, we conducted a pan-India cyclothon to encourage youngsters to save fuel. Cycling is the best way of conserving energy, and it is also great for fitness. We are very happy that over 500 people, mostly young kids, participated in the cyclothon. We also reach out to schools and nearby villages and conduct awareness programmes and activities like essay contest and painting competition on the theme, and convey our message through radio jingles. This year the theme is 'Green and Clean energy'. Each year, a variety of activities are conducted based on the theme. This time due to Covid-19 we were a bit restricted, but we are doing whatever we can through online mode, and ensuring social distancing when we conduct painting competitions in schools. The campaign will go on till February 15.
This shows that there is awareness among public at large towards energy reduction. I was particularly happy to see lot of young children participating in the event, as at the very early age, fuel conservation as a way of living is being imprinted in those young minds, which I believe will go a long way in achieving the objective. Last year as part of SAKSHAM-2020, MRPL reached out to more than 10,000 people to communicate on the need for conserving the fossil fuels.
During this one month, our target is to reach out to people pan-India across societies, across social belt, industrial belt, agricultural belt, wherever possible. As a refinery, our energy consumption goes on 24x7. While operating the plant, we have to be fully focused on ensuring how we can produce more with minimum energy cost. That is our job day in and day out. This also increases savings for the company. In a processing unit, the raw material cost is driven by the global market. Processing cost is the only parameter within your control. It is important to effectively deploy your resources and process them into the finished goods using minimum water, fuel, electricity, steam, and other resources. We do this on a 24x7 basis. We have our industry benchmarks, which we call the mean barrel number. This is a benchmark that gets monitored on a year-on-year basis. It is specific to a refinery depending on the configuration.
Energy Conservation and Resource Management
DW: What steps have you taken to ensure energy conservation at MRPL?
SV: We have a lot of furnaces and huge steam networks. We try to operate our furnaces with maximum efficiency. We have even won awards for furnace efficiency. We have audit teams from outside coming to our plant to audit our furnaces to see how our refinery is managing. From day one we have been getting a very good score on our furnace efficiency and we have earned several awards as well. We have a separate EnCon (energy conservation) division in our technical services. It is a specialized team of around four-five people looking into this unit-wise. Every morning they religiously check the production in their unit and the amount of energy and raw material consumed by the unit, and analyse whether it is at the optimum level or not, and if it is not, they try to figure out where the energy consumption is increasing. Then they flash that input to the operation team, whose job it is to safely operate the plant.
Not just on energy, we also focus on utilization of resources like water. In the past 15 years we have had to cut down production twice or thrice because of want of water. Water is a key resource without which the population cannot survive, agriculture cannot survive. We started our phase III with a different strategy, where dependency on river water is brought down. Water will become a constraint when the city grows, and the priority of the district administration will definitely be the population's drinking water needs. With this in mind, and our sister concern SEZ installed a tertiary sewage system. Earlier, Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) had a city sewage collection system where the sewage was being treated at a secondary unit and discharged into the Arabian Sea. The SEZ pushed them into installing a tertiary treatment plant. Now the secondary treated water from MCC does not flow into the sea, instead it comes to the tertiary treatment plant where it is treated to the level that is fit for industrial use. We are using about 3 to 4 MGD of such treated water per day in our plant. We have our own treated effluents which we are permitted to discharge them into the sea within stipulated parameters, but we have looked into maximising those recycles back to use in other industries. Roughly 70% of the waste is being recycled, and gradually we are looking into the possibility of how steams can be utilized inside.
Apart from that we do our bit for rain-water harvesting as well. Unfortunately the terrain here is such that the runoff velocity is high. As a solution, we have installed water-harvesting mechanism in all our recent buildings. I personally feel that the best solution is plantation. A green belt breaks down the heavy rain droplets into finer particles and the surface absortion of the earth increases. Nevertheless, our runoff stream goes into a collection pond and from there to our river water pond. For three or four months we utilize that water and do not draw water from the river.
We have also gone into a massive conservation drive, where we have installed LED bulbs inside the refinery, and distributed over 32,000 LED bulbs in the surrounding villages as part of our CSR activity and environmental initiative. We have undertaken the noble concept of sky pipes, wherein natural sunlight is being brought into our warehouses, thus reducing the need for electricity. On the renewable front, over 30 of our buildings have been installed with solar panels, from which we are generating a peak installed capacity of 6 MW. About three-four years back when we took up this initiative, we had the biggest solar installation for a refinery.
We also have an employee participation scheme where anybody can pitch an idea or a suggestion. During such energy conservation campaigns, our own employees float ideas of how we can conserve more energy and increase efficiency. We have a structured mechanism for evaluating their suggestions and in due course if it is found feasible, it is implemented. It is a participatory management. This apart, we create awareness among people in our colony, particularly for housewives. For instance, dos and dont's with the cooking gas, advantages of pressure cooking, using SIM mode of the gas burner and so on.
DW: How can general public contribute to energy conservation in a significant way?
SV: That is a very good question. During this entire month of our SAKSHAM campaign, our special focus has been on youngsters. In India the energy demand will continuously grow, and energy is the backbone of the growth of any nation. If you have sustainable, cheap and reliable energy, the nation will continue to grow. Youngsters should understand the importance of our precious resources.
One thing about India is that our energy cost is too high, because we pay a lot for importing crude oil. So first we target the youngsters in getting our message across that these resources are expensive, and for our energy security we need to have them. When we do not have crude oil under the earth here in India, it becomes crucial that we are judicious in our use of the crude oil that we import. By and large, we try to make the public aware of this.
We have a fleet of truck drivers coming in to pick up our consignments. We conduct programmes on safe driving, economical driving, free emission test and so on for them. We talk on public forums on the importance of carpooling, usage of LPGs etc. In India unfortunately we do not have quality public transport as in western countries, except for metro rails in Delhi and Bengaluru which are fantastic. Public mass transport systems are essential for energy conservation. We request people to do carpooling as much as possible. Electronic equipment like air conditioners, computers, laptops, TVs etc should be switched off when not in use, instead of being kept on stand-by mode. These are small things that will reduce an individual's electricity bill as well as help the nation. We try to advocate and promote these practices among people across various sections of the society, and the special thrust is on youngsters.
We can also practise switching off our car engines when we are waiting near traffic lights. Lighting in domestic and commercial sector represents a large portion of electricity consumption in India. Promotion of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), efficient fluorescent tubelights with electronic ballast can contribute significantly in reduction of electricity consumption. We can practise usage of public transportation, carpooling, cycling more and more in our daily lives wherever possible. These acts may seem very simple to us to believe that they may make any significant impact, but together, they are estimated to save around approximate 5% of energy import bill for India and reduce equivalent amount of carbon emissions.
People, Planet, Profit
DW: On the one hand, refining companies like MRPL sell fuel products like cooking gas, petrol and diesel, on the other hand, you have events like SAKSHAM to promote energy and fuel conservation. How do these two strikingly counter objectives meet?
SV: India as a nation and especially here at MRPL, we believe in three Ps - People, Planet and Profit. If you see, this is what came from COP-21 Paris Agreement too. We are a public sector unit, and we have a variety of things we focus on. A private sector organization will be profit-centred, but at our end we are concerned with people, planet and profit. Regarding the first (people), we have a variety of schemes, like CSR, environmental social responsibility and so on. Under these we have done the things I mentioned earlier - distribution of LED bulbs, drinking water initiatives etc. We do this because people in the surrounding villages do not have basic amenities such as healthcare and drinking water.
The second aspect is planet. Sustainability is very important. Our business will remain only if Mother Earth is kept in a reasonable shape. Petrol and diesel that we produce ultimately lead to global warming. Currently we are emitting 35 Giga Ton of carbon dioxide per annum. At this rate, by the year 2100, the earth's temperature will rise by 2.5 degree, posing great threat to coastal lands around the world. Therefore we need to fight climate change. Our prime minister has made a commitment to the world leaders to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels in COP-21 Paris Agreement.
Profit is secondary. Our parent company ONGC has a global reporting system for us, where we have to meet certain sustainable development goals. There are 17 such goals and they are internationally defined. We have to mandatorily report on these fronts, whatever are applicable. Our domain is the three Ps we talked about - people, meaning the social domain, planet, meaning environmental responsibility, and profit, which is basically governance and existence of the entity itself. Our domain has to be at the intersection of the three, that is, we should have a balance, we earn enough to survive, we are environmentally friendly, and at the same time we do not shy away from our social responsibility. We have our CSR fund, and under the guidelines of the government of India, there are 13-14 areas on which we can spend a fix portion of our profit.
Yes, it is a conflicting thing, but it is required to educate people to make judicious use of the resources that are not plentiful in the world. There may come a time when human beings may start fighting for a commodity like water. So with that in mind, we are thinking long-term and installing a desalination plant at NMPT which is fit for producing water for industrial use. With the desalination plant, our dependency on river water will reduce greatly and during a crisis we can forego the amount of water from natural sources. This way we can sustain our operation as well as cater to the fuel requirements of a large part of Karnataka.
Paris Agreement and MRPL
DW: You mentioned the Paris Agreement. Can you tell us what steps India is taking to meet its commitments to COP-21 and MRPL's contribution to achieving those targets?
SV: MRPL's contribution precedes the Paris Agreement by a long way. We started production in 1996, and we were the first refinery in India to produce lead-free petrol. At that point of time all refineries in India had lead-blended petrol, because lead improves engine performance. But it is a heavy metal and when it come out of the exhaust of the vehicle, it poses health risk to the public by and large. So our journey started from there - from the beginning our commitment has been to employ the best technology which could give clean and green fuel to the nation. Later on, various standards started coming in. When we started refinery production the typical sulphur level permitted in the fuel was 3 percent. Then Euro III came, and we were the first refinery to start producing Euro III grade petrol and diesel. Then we switched over to BS-IV, and now we started producing BS-VI products since September 2019, although the government mandate was to roll out BS-VI by April 1, 2020. So we were always at the forefront with a technological edge. The credit should go to the team as well who visualise the changes that are likely to come and what we need to do. We are trying to give clean and green fuel to the nation.
The Indian government came out with a multi-faceted framework to achieve more than the minimum commitments of Paris COP 21 Agreement. As part of energy climate commitments plan, India has already moved to BS-VI from BS-IV bypassing BS-V which itself is a testimony to its commitment to protect the nature. In order to reduce energy requirements of industries and thus moving towards an energy efficient society, the government has come out with a framework in line with Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT), Market Transformation for Energy Efficiency (MTEE), Energy Efficiency Financing Platform (EEFP), and Framework for Energy Efficient Economic Development (FEEED). PAT is meant for Industries to reduce its overall energy consumption from the previous levels by investing in energy efficient technologies. Being part of such framework, MRPL is achieving the targets set in terms of reducing the energy.
I would like to emphasize that when you engage in any industrial activity, there will be pollution. Crude comes with impurities, the refinery removes those impurities to make a cleaner energy, so that the Indian masses do away with woodfire cooking and switch to clean fuel. For the past two or three years we have conducted several campaigns to promote the use of LPG in rural India. Similarly, we remove impurities from petrol and diesel so that they have minimal impact on the environment. At a pan-India level, there are government bodies like the Centre for High Technology that set benchmarks like mean barrel level to monitor such efforts.
Carbon Emission Management
DW: What are MRPL's plans regarding carbon management and environmental sustenance?
SV: The 6 MW of installed peak capacity of our solar panels reduce carbon emissions of up to 2,000 tons per annum. Now we are looking into installing floating solar panels with the help of our sister concern OMPL, as we have exhausted rooftop space. Fuel reduction and efficiency improvement will finally result in a lower carbon emission, and that will contribute towards carbon management. We engage consultants for a two-year period to audit us. At the top management we are very focused on reducing our carbon footprint. It cannot be done overnight, but yes, we have to monitor, we have to be cautious. Fuel oil has dense molecules, and when it burns a lot of carbon is let out in the form of smoke. Cooking gas is a lighter fuel so you will not find smoke. Now with GAIL pipeline getting commissioned from Kochi to Mangaluru, that is another avenue where we are pushing out our liquid firing and bringing cleaner gas. Our phase III is designed for natural gas. This will also reduce carbon emission.
There are electric cars plying inside MRPL for internal use as a step to reduce carbon footprints. MRPL has also come up with vermicomposting unit of 90 tons per year to convert its bio solid waste into manure which will be used for its green belt. MRPL as an organization has always invested in the best technologies in the field at the design stage itself in order to minimize its energy footprint and emissions. We also promote green cover inside the refinery. We have 442 acres of land within the premises which promote biodiversity, and in addition MRPL has sponsored two-phase green coverage in 50 acres in Pilikula Nisargadhama.
DW: Do you face any environmental challenges at the local level? What message would you like to give to people in the surrounding villages, especially with regard to pollution control?
SV: As I said earlier, every human activity has a interaction with environment. But it is the responsibility of Industry to ensure that concerns of the neighbourhood are immediately addressed and reassured. As a company we are a responsible corporate entity. We are committed towards the upkeep of the environment and sustainable growth of MRPL along with its surroundings. We do not dissociate ourselves from the villages that surround us. The surrounding is very important to us. We are a professionally managed company, and we have earned ISO certifications for environmental management, and won several awards for sustainability management. We have NABL certified state-of-the-art laboratories. We are audited by external auditors, and the environmental certificates are awarded by BV International.
Yes, we did have certain issues. There was a transition time when we were commissioning our phase III, and there were some issues in the new units which were crude related. We had a series of interactions with the technical committee and the pollution control board, and some steps were taken. I am happy to announce that after those measures were taken, such incidents have come down. With the engagement of technical committee, the locals, the district administration and the pollution control board, we have undertaken different projects worth over Rs 250 crore to see that we offer better functioning.
One complaint from the locals was related to dust, since we were handling solid products in phase III, and road dust was also contributing. So we adopted German technology and invested around Rs 60 lac worth of special devices. After that things have come back to normal. There were frequent complaints regarding smell, so we removed the system that was near our compound wall and decommissioned the tank. We have built another tank inside the refinery, with its vent connected to our own system. I assure you as director of this refinery that we are equally concerned about the environment and the villages.
We have a full-fledged health, safety and environment (HSE) team who are always on the watch to detect anything that is off-limits. Sometimes, if there is a power failure and one generator trips, a selected few units will shut down. We have high pressure systems with lots of materials like naphta which cannot be processed. They have to be vented out. You would have sometimes seen flares emanating from our plant. That is burning of such material to a safe level. Now this burning is a loss to us. As a company we do not desire such flares, but it is a safety device. It generates a sound which lasts for a few minutes due to de-pressurising. But these are off-normal things. We took a deep dive and tried to ensure the reliability of our system so that we do not face power failures. At the time of commissioning of the third phase, the system was tripping frequently, but it has stabilized and now it rarely fails.
As a company we are committed to the preservation of our flora and fauna, environmental management and sustainable growth of this part of the country.