How this social enterprise is making way for a pollution-free India

Delhi-based BioD Energy is working towards reducing the unhealthy levels of pollution in the country by converting used cooking oil (UCO) into bio-diesel, a clean and renewable form of fuel.

India’s poor air quality can affect the future of millions of people. According to a report by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), one in eight deaths in the country was caused due to air pollution in 2017. In the very same year, our average life expectancy dropped by 1.7 years.

One of the main reasons behind this are vehicles burning fossil fuels and industries spewing particulate matter. Right from respiratory diseases and cardiovascular damage, to increase in global warming and acid rain, the carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur oxides produced have negative effects on plant and human life. 

The air quality is poor in the Delhi-NCR region mainly due to vehicles burning fossil fuels.

Enter BioD Energy, a Delhi-based social enterprise working towards reducing India’s pollution by converting used cooking oil (UCO) into bio-diesel, a clean and renewable form of fuel. The organisation produces 100 tonnes of bio-diesel a day in its processing facility at Bawal in Haryana.

Shiva Vig, Founder and CEO of BioD Energy, tells YourStory,

“Bio-diesel is a substitute for conventional fuels like petrol and diesel, and has immense potential. Besides being environment friendly, it enhances the energy security of the nation. We want to tap into this treasure trove and lay the path for a pollution-free India.”

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The endeavour towards a greener tomorrow

Cooking oil is an indispensable ingredient to preparing food found everywhere, from restaurants to regular households. However, cooking oil cannot be used beyond a point and needs to be discarded. BioD Energy has a solution to manage and dispose of used cooking oil in an environmentally responsible way.

BioD Energy periodically collects used cooking oil from hotels and industries in mini-trucks.

“We distribute calibrated containers to suppliers like McDonald’s, KFC, Oberoi Hotels, The Suryaa, Haldirams, and Nestlé, located across Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi. Once they fill the containers with used cooking oil, we collect and load it into vehicles and move it to a warehouse in Delhi for further filtration,” Shiva explains.

Chaaru Khurana, Food Safety and Hygiene Manager at The Suryaa Hotel in Delhi, has been overseeing this at her company. “BioD Energy collects about 125 litres of used cooking oil from the hotel every month after paying Rs 25 per litre. This initiative is beneficial since it not only checks wastage of cooking oil, but also ensures optimum utilisation. Besides, it gives us an opportunity to contribute towards environmental sustainability,” she says.

Once a considerable amount of oil is accumulated and distilled, it is transported to the production facility for processing. Here, it is converted into bio-diesel after adding substances like vegetable oils, animal fat, methanol, and glycerin followed by several chemical reactions.

The organisation collects and distills used cooking oil in its warehouse at Delhi.

Once the bio-diesel is obtained, the organisation sells it to logistics companies, industrial concerns, and petrol pumps at a cost of Rs 54 per litre, excluding GST. Synergy Teletech is one of its customers.

Prasan Surana, CEO and Founder, Synergy Teletech, says,

“BioD Energy distributes pure and distilled bio-diesel to us that we sell to our end-users at Rs 5 less than the market price of diesel. Office complexes, residential colonies and other manufacturing units are a part of the consumer base.”

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Creation of a cleaner and healthier space

BioD Energy produces bio-diesel in the processing facility at Bawal, Haryana.

Bio-diesel can be directly used in standard diesel engines or blended with petroleum. It can also be used as a solvent in various industrial processes as a heating fuel in commercial boilers and a cleaning agent for oil spills. The 100 tonnes of bio-diesel that BioD Energy produces every day is distributed and employed across industries and transport companies.

Since bio-diesel is renewable, it is known to improve air quality to a great extent. According to a report by Alternative Fuels Data Center, bio-diesel has the potential to reduce carbon, greenhouse gas emissions by 74 percent compared to petrol or diesel, making way for people to breathe cleaner air and lead healthier lives.

Bio-diesel can also help in improving the energy security of the country.

“India meets 80 percent of its oil needs through imports. This creates a huge burden on the current account deficit. Once people switch to bio-diesel, the dependency on foreign reserves is bound to decrease and meeting energy needs will become easy. This is precisely what we are working towards,” Shiva notes.

Employees of BioD Energy put up a stall to spread awareness about the ill-effects of over-using cooking oil.

With the production of bio-diesel, BioD Energy is helping keep adulteration of used cooking oil under check. Many times, used cooking oil that is beyond consumption is sold under the table to eateries, street vendors, and other food stalls. Food cooked in this oil comes with serious health hazards like cardiac diseases, Alzheimer’s, and lung infections.

By producing such large quantities of bio-diesel, the organisation is attempting to cut down the growing dependency on fossil fuels and provide India with a greener and more sustainable environment to live in.

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The start of BioD Energy

Shiva was managing his family business of manufacturing and sale of paper in Dubai. However, he was keen to start his own venture.

Shiva Vig, CEO and Founder of BioD Energy

“I wanted to do something that could make the world a better place. Just then, I heard about used cooking oil being exported from Dubai to Europe to produce bio-diesel. I started thinking about all the benefits of using bio-diesel and decided to start in this space. Since India has a tremendous potential to use alternative fuels, I decided to set its operations here,” he quips.

So, in 2014, BioD Energy was born.

Shiva put in Rs 100 crore to kickstart the venture, 60 percent of which was funded through his family business and 40 percent was taken as a term loan from HDFC Bank. Today, the organisation has a total of 200 employees spread across its manufacturing facility, warehouse, and logistics division. BioD Energy is also a part of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO) initiative. The organisation is the assigned aggregator of used cooking oil for the Delhi-NCR region.

The team of BioD Energy at the production facility.

“India imports 80 percent of its oil needs and aims to bring it down to 67 percent by 2022 by replacing it with local exploration, renewable energy, and alternative forms of fuel. Hence, the market opportunities for BioD Energy is huge. We are planning to open another processing facility in 2020 to meet the growing need,” says Shiva.

While there are several other organisations that manufacture bio-diesel in the country, BioD Energy claims to be one of the very few that produces distilled and quality fuel in bulk.

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