Interview with Faizur Rehman

Face2Face
Faizur Rehman
Faizur Rehman
Head-Bio2X programme
Fortum India
Fortum India

What are some of the green energy tieups and projects that you are planning for or already implementing in India?

Bio2X is a journey which has just begun. We have made our first step by investing in India's first commercial bio-refinery (Numaligarh Refinery Ltd) in Assam. The bio-refinery will be based on formico-technology developed by Chempolis. The key raw material of the bio-refinery is bamboo. The main product bio-ethanol will be sold to NRL, where it will be blended with petrol. In addition, biorefinery produces other biochemicals and biocoal. Biocoal will be used in combined heat and power (CHP) plant to produce heat and power for the biorefinery. The excess power will be sold to NRL's oil refinery where it will replace fossil electricity production. This venture shall produce 62 million litres of bio-ethanol by using around 0.5 million MT bamboo per annum, which is going to be a game changer in terms of additional revenue generation for the bamboo farmers through sustainable cultivation, extraction and transportation of bamboo. This is the first FDI in India's Northeast to set up its first bamboo based biorefinery. 

Fortum has taken another step towards building options for significant new businesses that improve resource efficiency and reduce the use of fossil raw materials and ingredients in a variety of industries. We signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in order to research paddy and paddy straw together with one of India's leading universities, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University. We did another major collaboration with Spinnova to continue building our bio-based ecosystem. Spinnova's disruptive technology is unique in the world. In the bio-economy, studying a wide range of material and process options is necessary in order to achieve optimal application qualities. The goal of the cooperation is to produce straw-based textile fibre, as well as other valuable chemicals and materials used in the food, cosmetics and construction industries, among other things. The longer-term aim is to establish a bio-refinery using paddy straw as raw material. 

Are you working on any technology/ ies on how to bring down the carbon footprint of textile products?

Our Bio2X programme aims to explore the resource-efficient utilisation of the raw materials. Our mission is to produce high-value products from agro-residues and woody biomass to replace fossil and other environmentally detrimental raw materials. At fractionation technology based bio-refineries, these raw materials can be separated into three components: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. These intermediate products can be further refined into textiles, cosmetics and industrial products like glues. Bio2X is tasked with finding and ensuring sustainable ways to use biomass. Among other things, we are researching the possibility of using recycled materials and agricultural residues, like wheat straw and rice straw, as bio-refinery raw materials. Especially in developing countries, straw is generally combusted in the fields, significantly increasing the air pollution; in the worst cases, the small particle content that is harmful to humans is 30 times higher than recommended levels. When straw is used as a raw material at bio-refineries, its combustion can be avoided and additional earning opportunities for farmers can be created. Fortum's goal through the straw supply chain is to create positive impacts for local communities without compromising the nutrient and carbon balance of fields. 

We believe that the growing awareness and concern about climate change will increase the demand for low-carbon and resource and energy efficient energy products and services. We are leveraging our knowhow in carbon dioxide-free hydro, nuclear, wind and solar power and in energy-efficient CHP production by offering our customers low-carbon energy solutions. We also believe that the electrification of transportation, industry and services will increase the consumption of low-carbon electricity. Our strategy is targeting to a multi-gigawatt wind and solar portfolio.

How different is the processing of Bio2X products for textiles?

Bio2X targets to make sustainable textile fibres that would be similar to other fibres to be further produced into fabrics.

What kind of interest have you received on Bio2X from the global and Indian textile fraternity? Are you working with any major brands or textile companies for developing more fibres?

We have an overwhelming response to Bio2X from many national and international brands. All the good textile companies are aiming to use sustainable means for producing textile fibres. We are also developing concept of "Biovillage", wherein we will create an industrial ecosystem in which biomass is refined at the same location, with several companies.

What is the environmental impact of the fractionation technology used at Fortum?

In Fortum's Bio2X programme, new business opportunities with fractioning based technologies and end-products of the process is being thoroughly investigated. Through Fortum's fractionation technology, valuable end-products can be produced from biomass and used in place of fossil or other less sustainable raw materials. In fractionation, biomass is separated into lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose with high yields and purities. The fractions have more advantageous properties in further product manufacturing than those from traditional pulp and biofuel processes. These fractions can be used to replace fossil-derived raw materials in many industrial and consumer sectors, helping in reduction of air pollution and achieving environmental sustainability.

What applications within the textiles and apparel niches do you foresee for Bio2X?

At present, we are doing extensive testing with our partners. Depending on the results, we will finalise our short to midterm targets for textile industries.
Published on: 17/12/2019

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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