Industries in Delhi-NCR shifting to cleaner fuels such as PNG and biomass, but challenges of supply, cost and monitoring queer the pitch – says CSE’s new study

  • Study does in-depth assessment of two Delhi-NCR’s major industrial areas–Matsya Industrial Area (MIA) and Bhiwadi in Alwar
  • Finds that most industriesin the surveyed areas have shifted towards cleaner fuels after the June 2022 CAQM notification
  • But limited PNG availability and its soaring prices are making it difficult for them to go greener; also, new particulate emission standards are being overlooked by industries firing biomass
  • CSE presents a set of recommendations on the way ahead 

Download the full CSE report click here

New Delhi, February 8, 2023: Industries in Delhi-NCR are beginning to move towards using cleaner fuels – finds a new assessment done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) of two major industrial areas in the region in Alwar district of Rajasthan. The welcome shift follows a Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) order for industries in Delhi-NCR to shift towards cleaner fuels such as PNG, biomass etc. 

The study has surveyed and analysed the pattern of fuel shift, changes and tentative costs required for making this shift, challenges faced by industries for shifting towards cleaner fuels and the strategies they adopt to combat them. CSE has done in-depth assessment of two industrial areas namely – the Matsya Industrial Area (MIA) and Bhiwadi in Alwar. 

The CAQM had issued the order in June 2022, under whichindustries had been given a deadline till September 30, 2022 in cases where a PNG pipeline is already available, and a deadline of December 31, 2022 for industrial clusters without a pipeline in place. 

Out of the two regions studied, industries in Bhiwadi are shifting towards PNG as the area already has a pipeline; industries in MIA are opting for biomassbecause the area does not have a PNG pipeline network. According to the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board, almost all industries in Alwar and Bhiwadi have moved to CAQM-approved fuels. Exceptions include a few industries which are using wood charcoal (permitted only for cloth ironing in NCR) and a metal-working industrythat is reportedly using coal. 

Says Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution, CSE: "Though these industries are changing their fuels, a few significant points need to be kept in mind to make cleaner fuel usage a sustainable option -- these include the issue of PNG availability,its soaring prices and the challenge of meeting new PM emission normsusing biomass as a fuel."

What did the CSE study find? 

Significant shift towards cleaner fuels by industries in Alwarafter the CAQM order: PNG and biomass are the two major cleanerfuels used widely by industries in the NCR. Since these two fuelswere widely used in the industries of Alwar ,the district was chosen as the study area.The fuel shift pattern varied according to the availability of the fuel – in Bhiwadi, PNG was the fuel of choice since the area had a PNG pipeline; in Matsya Industrial Area, which is awaiting a pipeline, industries have moved to agro-residue or biomass. 

PNG is expensive, biomass most affordable in terms of both capex and opex: Most of the industries surveyed in Bhiwadi spent not less than Rs 1crore for the transition to PNG; the cost of PNG is high at Rs52/scm (2023). On the other hand, shifting to biomass meant an almost zero to less than Rs5 lakh cost, with biomass available for as low as Rs5/kg. 

PNG availability and subsequent increase in its cost a major concern: Some of the industries using PNG are already worried as they are provided only 70-80 per cent of the contracted PNG because of the ongoing global crisis. This has also led to a hike in its purchasing cost from Rs24/scm in 2021 to Rs52/scm in 2023. To offset this problem, industries areadopting different strategies such as increasing the final product price, using alternate cleaner fuels (like LSHS and LPG) with minimal PNG use, installing solar plantsfor energy-side cost-cutting, using alternate raw materials and reducing rejections. Says Yadav: “Some industries are also demonstrating a willingness to shift part of their production outside Delhi-NCR to continue operations with cheaper conventional fuels.” 

Particulate emissions a major concern in biomass firing: The CAQM order says PM emissions must be brought down below 80 mg/Nm3; the aim should be of further lowering it to below 50 mg/Nm3. Says Yadav, “But our study found that industries are not making enough efforts to mitigate PM emissions. Bag filters or electrostatic precipitators can bring down emissions below 50 mg/Nm3 – but only one out of 15 surveyed biomass-firing industrieshas a bag filter.The rest use less efficient cyclone separators, dust collectors or wet scrubbers.”To add to this, some of these air pollution control devices are ill-maintained. 

What is the way forward? 

Ensure consistent PNG supply: Industries that have a PNG connection are getting only 70-80 per cent of the contracted supply, while Industries that have applied for a connection in 2022 have not yet got it. A continuous supply needs to be ensured. 

Bring PNG under GST: With industries getting only 70-80 per cent of the contracted PNG, the remaining 20-30 per cent is being sold to industries at a special price mechanism known as ‘spot price’ – this is approximately four times higher than the contracted PNG price. This makes the fuel economically unviable, particularly for small and medium scale industries in Alwar. Says Parth Kumar, programme manager, industrial pollution, CSE: “To lower the PNG prices in NCR, one of the essential measures that needs to be taken is bringing PNG under GST to save it from the multiple layers of state taxation it has to go through before it reaches the industries.” 

Proper APCDs should be installed and operated: It is important to use appropriate air pollution control devices (APCDs) such as bag filters or electrostatic precipitators in biomass firing. Subsidies should be provided for purchase of these devices, particularly for the small- and medium-scale sectors.Strict action needs to be initiated against industries that have not installedappropriate air pollution control devices while using biomass as a fuel. 

Strengthen the emission monitoring system: Considering the scale of biomass firing in MIA and Bhiwadi, the onlinecontinuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) needs to be strengthened -- only two out of the 15 surveyed biomass-firing industries have installed CEMS at designated places. Industrial area-specific pollution assessment studies need to be carried out for pollution abatement. CSE’s analysis of online CEMS data has revealed that the information is not real-time and the industries are not displaying data for prolonged periods. Stack emission monitoring has to be streamlined and CEMS certification needs to be put in place to ensure proper emission monitoring and to maintain the quality of the data being displayed online.

For more details, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre,, 8816818864