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Is Ex-situ Crop Residue Management a Scalable Solution to Stubble Burning?

A Punjab Case Study

L. S. Kurinji, Sankalp Kumar
January 2021 | Risks & Adaptation

Suggested Citation: Kurinji, L. S, and Sankalp Kumar. 2021. Is Ex-situ Crop Residue Management a Scalable Solution to Stubble Burning? A Punjab Case Study. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Overview

This study focuses on the ex-situ crop residue management and examines the economics of crop residue supply chain in Punjab. It compares the delivered cost of various types of biomass products such as bales, briquettes, and pellets to end-users. Further, it investigates the viability of the use of paddy residue in coal-fired power plants to supplement the use of coal in the state. The study also identifies tangible solutions to support the biomass supply chain and scale up ex-situ management in Punjab.

Supply chain of crop residue for ex-situ management

ex situ crop residue management
Source: Authors' compilation

Key Findings

  • Managing crop residue through ex-situ methods requires a dense network of logistics, a vast workforce, and extensive storage infrastructure.
  • Supply chain service providers offer support by providing customised farm implements like raker and baler needed for residue collection, as individual farmers do not maintain an inventory of such implements needed for ex-situ management.
  • A few entities make use of an ‘on-demand’ model to locally source the farm implements from custom hiring centres (CHCs) or large farmers and provide those implements ‘on-demand’ to individual farmers.
  • Biomass aggregation, involving residue collection, baling and transiting to the nearest straw bank at a distance of 15 km, would cost INR 1,330 per tonne bale. Out of this, the cost associated with cutting and baling of residue entails 50 per cent of the procurement cost.
  • Interim storage of the crop residue in straw banks assumes importance, given the limited span of 15–20 days available for sowing the next crop. The storage cost constitutes 20–30 per cent of the total delivered cost of biomass.

Delivered cost of biomass-based products increases with distance

Delivered cost of biomass-based products increases with distance
Source: Authors' anlaysis
  • Transporting baled residue to the end-user beyond 50 km entails a high delivered cost, which may not be viable for companies engaged in the supply chain.
  • Dispatching bales to the end-user at a distance of 50 km from the straw bank will incur a total delivered cost (includes biomass aggregation cost) of INR 2,500-3,000 per tonne bale. Delivered price is even higher in the range of INR 4,000-5,000 per tonne for densified biomass briquettes and pellets for the same distance.
  • Co-firing 10 per cent of biomass pellets with coal in coal-fired power plants in Punjab would require 1.47 million tonnes of paddy residue annually, which would account for nearly 7.4 per cent of paddy residue generated in Punjab.

Key Recommendations

  • Establish a dense network of straw banks and supply chain ecosystem.
  • Boost demand for biomass to encourage more participation in biomass supply chain.
  • Institute price regulation for crop residue-based products.
  • Map and publish a database of end-users with their annual crop residue demand.
  • Create a digital platform connecting farmers, straw banks, end-users, and other stakeholders involved in the biomass supply chain to trade crop residue.
  • Focus in-situ solutions in areas where there is a deficit in biomass demand or potential end-users.
Dispatching bales to the end-user at a distance of 50 km from the straw bank will incur a total delivered cost (includes biomass aggregation cost) of INR 2,500-3,000 per tonne bale. Delivered price is even higher in the range of INR 4,000-5,000 per tonne for densified biomass briquettes and pellets for the same distance.

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