There is no alternative to bio-extruders in biogas industry; production in India very soon, says Rika Biotech Founder Gregory Krupnikovs

Renowned for supplying bio-extruders globally, Rika Biotech is going great in the Indian market while finding it both challenging and promising due to the country's vast potential. With a focus on waste management and biogas production, company founder Gregory Krupnikovs explores India's unique market dynamics, highlighting opportunities, obstacles and his future plans.

Gregory Krupnikovs, a leading authority in the burgeoning biogas sector worldwide, serves as the founder and business development director of Rika Biotech, headquartered in the United Kingdom. Over the past decade, Gregory has played a pivotal role in the rapid deployment of bio-extruder technology that was created by German engineering conglomerate Lehmann UMT GmbH across the globe. Despite a hectic schedule during his recent trip to India, I Am Renew would catch-up with him for an insightful discussion on bio-extruder technology, its effectiveness in biogas plants, industry response, and more.

Engaging in conversation at a hotel in Noida, situated in the heart of North India—a region grappling with the challenge of agricultural waste disposal—Gregory passionately asserts that bio-extruders represent a vital solution for the biogas industry, particularly in addressing the issue of paddy straw burning.

The Bio-Extruder

Gregory Krupnikovs narrates about his journey in the biogas sector over the past 15 years. After trying their hands on various kinds of feedstocks, Rika Biotech came to straw around 10 years ago. “We started looking at different technologies because straw as feedstock has high potential. It also has a problem because of the lignin structure which is not easily degradable. So, it creates problems for digesters.” Gregory spotted the bio-extruder technology thereafter, went to Germany to check, he liked it and then tested the technology for around a year. Rika Biotech has been cooperating with Lehmann UMT for almost 10 years now.

Gregory shares, “On one hand, the technology is very simple as ideology but on the other hand it’s precision made and extremely efficient. It breaks up the lignin structure of straw, making cellulose available for bacteria. Sounds very simple; a lot of people tried to do that but Lehmann UMT succeeded.”

A Proven Technology 

Rika Biotech has supplied bio-extruders in many countries before they introduced it into India. Lehmann UMT has sold 150-170 extruders in Europe alone. It’s not something designed specifically for India. The European biogas industry is different from India in terms of straw feedstock. Europe has wheat & barley straw which is not burnt there. Gregory maintains that extruders are well adapted & used in countries outside Europe for different kinds of feedstocks.

What He Discovered In India

The company founder finds the Indian market challenging but extremely interesting as the country has very high potential. “India is the only country which supports bio-manure at the government level which is part of the biogas story. This is also a waste management as wet-waste is not allowed to end up in landfills as it can emit large quantities of methane into the atmosphere & create pollution whilst it could be producing green fuel & substituting imports of gas. Plus you also get bio-fertilizers which are proven by several studies as extremely good for the soil & agriculture,” notes Gregory.

In this visit, Gregory met five companies. He says that the Indian market is “challenging for us. The volume of the development of biogas in this country is unprecedented compared to Europe. To be able to satisfy the demand, we have to change our normal practices and produce technology in greater quantities with speed.”

He also mentions a key difference between the Indian and European markets. In Europe there is high priced offtake in the private & government market for biogas. The price is substantially higher than India probably by around 60-70 percent more which allows biogas companies there to use more expensive technologies. Gregory says that Indian gas prices are also rising which is going to help the domestic industry.

Local Production On Mind

Rika Biotech is looking for ‘Made in India’ bio-extruders but it will take some time. “We will try to do it as soon as possible but the transfer of technology, production facilities, certifying production, establishing the corporate infrastructure etc. is a time consuming process,” adds Gregory.

He says that the Indian biogas industry is very ambitious and has set high goals but it’s not overhyped. “They have a pretty realistic approach. You have about 150 plants in real development now. The Indian Government’s plan for 5000 biogas plants was ambitious & looked unrealistic a few years ago. But the government has given a push to the industry. There may be challenges in the whole of the value chain, but the government gave an impetus to the industry to be ready for the proper development of 5000 plants. If there was no government push, most probably we wouldn’t be sitting here & discussing things,” laughs out Gregory.

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No Alternative To Extruders

Gregory mentions that they do not see any alternative to this technology. “Steam explosion was tried before. Some 5-6 systems were deployed in Britain and not one is operational today. It’s unreliable, inefficient and is very costly. Hammer milling also failed as there was the big problem of feedstock mixing in the digester. Ultrasound could be beneficial in the digester. I haven’t seen one realistic technology that could even be compared with extruders,” he said. The bio-extruders are industry approved & accepted as evidenced from the sale of 150-170 units in Europe alone.

Costly Machine But Benefits Over-Power

Gregory says that extruders are costly technology but they offer huge benefits in the biogas system. “It allows you to produce around 350 cubic meters of biogas per tonne of straw against the present generation capacity of just 150-200 cubic meters. It allows you to use simpler & more energy efficient mixers. It shortens retention time allowing for smaller digesters. Once we begin to produce locally in India, it will be cheaper for sure,” concludes Gregory Krupnikovs.

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