LAHORE, Sept 1: The Punjab Agriculture Department has moved a summary to the provincial government to approve a project of 10,000 biogas technology plants to mitigate the energy crisis following the successful installation of 1,476 plants in the 36 districts of the province.

The department has also completed a pilot project of installing biogas supplemented tubewells for irrigation in 11 districts, urging the government to further allow such installations to pass on the benefit to the farmers who are bearing high cost of diesel.High cost of fuel, fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture is not only increasing input costs but also reducing earnings of farmers as well as the government in terms of foreign exchange.

According to department officials each plant with 15 cubic meter size is producing cooking needs of 10 members of a family and if utilised for power, could generate electricity up to two hours. They say dung and water are required to generate biogas energy for each house where the technology is being used.

They say the government had provided Rs72.8 million subsidy for the project of 1,476 plants, which started in 2009 and concluded in June 2013. The department is short of 24 such plants against the target of 1,500 plants and a subsidy of Rs75 million.

According to the requirement Rs50,000 had to be provided to each household for installation and as much amount had to be paid by the applicant.

Official statistics available with Dawn shows that 50 biogas plants have been set up in Faisalabad district, 60 in Jhang, 37 in Toba Tek Singh, 46 in Chiniot, 65 in Sargodha, 27 in Khushab, 24 in Mianwali, 24 in Chakwal, 26 in Lahore, 44 in Sheikhupura, 50 in Nankana Sahib, 72 in Kasur, 68 in Okara, 46 in Gujranwala, 17 in Gujrat, 40 in Mandi Bahauddin, 28 in Hafizabad, 32 in Sialkot, 20 each in Narowal and Rawalpindi, 14 in Jhelum, 26 in Attock, 42 in Multan, 48 in Khanewal, 49 in Vehari, 24 in Lodhran, 56 in Sahiwal, 44 each in Pakpattan and Bahawalpur, 62 in Bahawalnagar, 50 in Rahim Yar Khan, 38 in Dera Ghazi Khan, 63 in Muzaffargarh, 30 in Rajanpur, 46 in Layyah and 44 in Bhakkar.

Officials said the consumers had been given mechanical components by the department and the plant life was approximately up to 15 years or so. The dung of at least six cattle is required to generate biogas for each house.

They said according to department estimates each user could save up to 2,000-litre kerosene in a year while 1,476 plants could save up to 2.95m litre kerosene annually. They said 15,000 people were benefiting from the installed plants in terms of cooking and heating.

Officials said the users could also save a good amount of wood by using the biogas technology and properly mixing dung and waste. They said the technology, which is being used by China and India in the form of millions of users, would help minimise use of wood, crop residue and commercial fuel for domestic needs.

In another project, the department following the direction of the chief minister a year ago, has installed 50 tubewells with 25 cubic-meter size (for up to 12.5 acres) and 40 cubic-meter size (for up to 25 acres) in Jhang, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot, Narowal, Muzaffargarh, Bhakkar, Layyah, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalnagar till June 10, 2013.

They said the project (which converts 75 per cent plant into biogas) was aimed at reducing the cost of energy and converting diesel into biogas which was saving 2,880 litres of diesel annually against 16 horse powers tubewell. The farmers, who are using the technology, are saving approximately Rs190 an hour.

The government is giving 73 per cent subsidy against installation of 40 cubic meter tubewells and 85 per cent against 25 cubic meter tubewells.

According to the department estimates 50 tubewells with 1,600-hour run annually can save 144,000 litres of diesel worth Rs15.8 million. There are 0.9 million tubewells running on diesel in Punjab out of which 85 per cent are of up to 20 HP. If 765,000 tubewells be converted into biogas, up to 29 million litres can be saved annually.

Officials said the firm, which installed the biogas at tubewells, would operate and maintain those for a year in warranty and the equipment had 15-year life. They said the installation of 10,000 such tubewells in Punjab would need Rs3 billion subsidy and it would help increase crop production up to 20 per cent and save diesel worth millions.

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