Bio Coal is a type of renewable energy source that is produced from organic waste materials. It is a carbon-neutral fuel that can replace fossil coal in industrial processes.

Biocoal is recognized as a promising alternative for future energy. Using available biomass wastes as feedstock is expected to have a significant impact on reducing CO2 emissions by substituting an equal amount of coal with bio-coal. This process not only mitigates the fossil fuel shortage and climate change issues but also provides a solution to the global waste management problem.

Find valuable information related to the potential opportunities brought by Bio coal in the Indian market in this post.

Current and Future Potential of Bio-Coal Sector in India

Current Status

The bio-coal sector in India is still in its nascent stage. While there are growing interest and pilot projects underway, large-scale commercial production is yet to take off. Here’s a breakdown of the current landscape.

  • Limited Production: Currently, bio-coal production in India is limited to small-scale initiatives and pilot projects.
  • Focus on R&D: Research institutions and some private companies are actively involved in the research and development of various bio-coal production methods using different feedstocks.
  • Government Support: The Indian government has shown interest in promoting bio-coal as a sustainable alternative fuel source. Policies and incentives are being explored to encourage investment and development in this sector.

Future Potential

The future potential of the bio-coal sector in India appears promising, driven by several factors.

  • Government Initiatives: Supportive policies and incentives can significantly propel the growth of the sector by attracting investments and facilitating commercialization.
  • Technological Advancements: Research and development efforts can lead to more efficient and cost-effective bio-coal production methods, making it a more competitive fuel source.
  • Growing Demand for Clean Energy: India’s increasing energy needs coupled with the growing focus on clean energy solutions can create a significant demand for bio-coal as a sustainable alternative.

Bio-Coal Sector in India: Key Players 

CategoryPotential PlayersNotes
Research Institutions– Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi
– Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati
– Central Institute for Agricultural Engineering (CIAE)
– Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Laboratories
Actively involved in R&D and pilot projects.
Potential Bio-Coal Producers Private Companies
– Tata Chemicals Ltd
– SLNG Magadh Ltd
– Greenwell Biofuels Pvt. Ltd
– Everest Industries Ltd. (exploring production)
Government Undertakings
– Coal India Limited
Limited commercial production yet.
Raw Material Suppliers (Potential)– Agricultural Cooperatives
– Forestry Departments
– Municipal Solid Waste Management Companies
Aggregation and proper processing of feedstock are crucial.
Technology Solution Providers (Potential)– Startups with innovative bio-coal conversion technologies, Engineering and Manufacturing Companies with relevant expertiseIdentifying specific names might be difficult due to the evolving sector.

Bio-Coal Production Processes and Technical Details

Feedstock Selection and Preparation

  • Suitable Biomass Types
    • Agricultural Residues: Rice straw, wheat straw, sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, etc.
    • Forestry Waste: Wood chips, sawdust, thinning, etc.
    • Dedicated Energy Crops: Miscanthus, switchgrass, short-rotation coppice (SRC) trees.
  • Selection Criteria
    • Availability and sustainability: Ensuring a consistent and sustainable supply of feedstock is crucial.
    • Moisture content: High moisture content reduces conversion efficiency and requires additional drying.
    • Chemical composition: Different biomass types have varying compositions impacting bio-coal properties.
  • Pre-treatment
    • Drying: Reducing moisture content to 10-20% is essential for efficient conversion. Drying methods include sun drying, mechanical drying, or thermal drying.
    • Size reduction: Crushing or grinding biomass to a uniform size (1-5 cm) improves heat transfer and conversion efficiency.

Conversion Technologies

1. Pyrolysis

  • Fast Pyrolysis
    • Temperature: 400-600°C
    • Heating rate: Rapid
    • Products
      • Bio-oil: Liquid hydrocarbon fuel with potential applications in transportation or co-firing in power plants.
      • Biochar: Solid carbonaceous residue with high energy density and potential applications in fuel, soil amendment, or carbon sequestration.
    • Reactors: Fluidized bed, auger reactors, circulating fluidized bed reactors.
  • Slow Pyrolysis
    • Temperature: 350-450°C
    • Heating rate: Slow
    • Product: Primarily bio-char with higher yield than fast pyrolysis.
    • Reactors: Batch reactors, rotary kilns, screw conveyors.

2. Torrefaction

  • Temperature: 200-300°C
  • Heating rate: Moderate
  • Products: Torrefied biomass with improved:
    • Grindability: Easier to grind for further processing.
    • Hydrophobicity: Repels water, improving storage and transportation properties.
    • Energy density: Slightly higher than raw biomass.
  • Reactors: Fluidized bed, rotary kiln, screw reactors.

3. Upgradation (Optional)

  • Densification
    • Briquetting: Pressing bio-char or torrefied biomass into compact briquettes improves:
      • Handling: Easier to store and transport.
      • Combustion characteristics: Improves uniformity and efficiency when burning.
    • Pelletization: Similar to briquetting but forming cylindrical pellets.
  • Activation
    • Steam or chemical activation: Increases surface area and porosity of bio-coal, enhancing its:
      • Reactivity: Improves combustion efficiency and potential for pollutant adsorption.
      • Adsorption capacity: Useful for applications like wastewater treatment or gas purification.

4. Technical Considerations

  • Choice of technology
    • Fast pyrolysis is preferred if bio-oil production is desired alongside bio-char.
    • Slow pyrolysis is suitable for maximizing biochar yield.
    • Torrefaction is ideal for improving biomass characteristics for further processing or direct combustion.
  • Reactor design: Each technology has different reactor options with varying advantages and limitations in terms of efficiency, scalability, and cost.
  • Process parameters: Optimizing temperature, pressure, residence time, and heating rate is crucial for maximizing product yield and desired properties.
  • Environmental impact: Emissions control is essential during the process to minimize air and water pollution. Proper management of wastewater and solid waste generated is also crucial.

Top 10 states for Bio Coal production

Due to the nascent stage of the bio-coal industry in India, reliable data on state-specific production potential is limited. However, based on factors like agricultural residue availability, existing research and development activities, and government initiatives, the following states have the potential to be at the forefront of bio-coal development.

RankStateReasons for Potential
1PunjabHigh generation of agricultural residue (rice straw), ongoing pilot projects, and government support.
2HaryanaSignificant rice and wheat straw production, research initiatives by IIT Delhi and private companies.
3Uttar PradeshThe largest producer of sugarcane, potential for bagasse utilization, and interest from government and private entities.
4MaharashtraHigh agricultural residue generation, presence of research institutions like IIT Bombay, and state-level bio-coal initiatives.
5Tamil NaduConsiderable rice straw availability, ongoing research at IIT Madras, and growing interest in clean energy solutions.
6Andhra PradeshLarge producer of rice and sugarcane, potential for co-firing in existing power plants, and pilot projects in collaboration with private companies.
7KarnatakaDiverse agricultural residue sources, research activities by institutions like IISc Bangalore, and focus on sustainable energy development.
8GujaratHigh bagasse availability from sugarcane production, presence of bio-energy companies, and potential for co-firing in power plants.
9Madhya PradeshSignificant rice and wheat production, potential for utilizing forest waste, and interest from government agencies.
10BiharHigh generation of agricultural residue, ongoing research projects, and potential for rural development initiatives.

Feedstock Options for Bio-Coal Production in India with Regional Availability

CategoryFeedstockDescriptionRegions with High Availability
Agricultural ResiduesRice Straw– Leftover stalks after rice harvest.
– High in cellulose and hemicellulose content.
Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha
Wheat Straw– Remaining stalks after wheat harvest.
– Similar in composition to rice straw.
Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
Sugarcane Bagasse– The fibrous residue left after sugarcane juice extraction.
– High in cellulose and lignin content.
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh
Corn Stover– Stalk and leaves remaining after corn harvest.
– Good source of cellulose and hemicellulose.
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
Forestry WasteWood Chips– Low-grade wood is unsuitable for timber.Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, North-Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, etc.)
Sawdust– Fine wood particles are generated during wood processing.Wood processing hubs across India (Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, etc.)
Thinnings– Young trees are removed from forests for management purposes.Forest management areas across India (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, etc.)
Dedicated Energy CropsMiscanthus– Fast-growing perennial grass with high biomass yield.Pilot projects ongoing in various regions in India
Switchgrass– Another fast-growing perennial grass suitable for bio-energy production.Pilot projects ongoing in various regions in India
Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) Trees– Fast-growing trees are harvested on a short rotation cycle.Pilot projects ongoing in various regions in India

Emerging and Under-Research Feedstocks for Bio-Coal Production in India

Agricultural ResiduesJute Sticks and StalksLeftover woody material after jute fiber extraction.High cellulose content, readily available in jute-growing regions.Requires efficient pre-treatment due to high lignin content.
Crop Residues from Pulses and OilseedsStraw and stalks left after harvesting pulses (e.g., gram, lentil) and oilseeds (e.g., mustard, sunflower).Diverse and geographically widespread availability.Limited research on conversion efficiency and properties of bio-coal derived from these sources.
Microalgal BiomassCultivated microalgae, single-celled aquatic organisms.Total mass of algaeHigh potential for biomass yield and can be cultivated on non-arable land or wastewater.Requires significant research on cost-effective cultivation, harvesting, and conversion technologies.
Wastewater Treatment SludgeWastewater Treatment SludgeOrganic matter is removed during wastewater treatment processes.Abundantly available in urban and industrial areas.Requires careful management to ensure cleanliness and suitability for bio-coal production.
Aquatic BiomassThe total mass of algaeComposed of diverse species of aquatic plants.Rapidly renewable resource with potential for cultivation in ponds or wastewater treatment facilities.Research is needed on efficient harvesting, drying, and conversion methods.

Emerging Technologies for Bio-Coal Production in India

Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC)Converts biomass into a coal-like material using high pressure and hot water under moderate temperatures (180-250°C).Produces bio-coal with high energy density and improved combustion characteristics compared to conventional pyrolysis.Requires significant water usage and high energy input for heating.
Microwave-Assisted PyrolysisUses microwaves to heat biomass for rapid and efficient conversion into bio-coal.Offers faster processing times, improved energy efficiency, and the potential for selective heating of specific components within the biomass.Requires specialized equipment and further research on optimizing process parameters.
Plasma-Assisted GasificationHigh-temperature conversion of biomass using plasma results in syngas (mixture of gases) that can be further processed into bio-fuels or bio-coal.Offers high conversion efficiency and the potential for cleaner syngas production compared to conventional gasification.Requires complex and expensive equipment and further development to become commercially viable.
Fast Pyrolysis with In-Situ UpgradingCombines fast pyrolysis with catalytic upgrading within the reactor to produce higher quality bio-fuels or bio-coals directly.Reduces the need for separate upgrading steps and potentially improves product quality and yield.Requires advanced reactor design and further research on developing suitable catalysts.
Enzyme-Assisted PretreatmentUses enzymes to break down complex carbohydrates in biomass, making it more susceptible to conversion processes like pyrolysis or torrefaction.Improves conversion efficiency and potentially reduces energy consumption during bio-coal production.Requires further research on cost-effective production and optimization of enzyme types and dosages for different feedstocks.

End-Use Applications of Bio-Coal in India

Power Generation– Co-firing in existing coal power plants (up to 5-10%)
– Dedicated biomass power plants (regions with abundant feedstock)
– Reduces reliance on imported coal
– Potentially lowers the carbon footprint
– Utilizes existing infrastructure (co-firing)
– Renewable energy sources (dedicated plants)
– Local job creation (dedicated plants)
– Reduces dependence on fossil fuels (dedicated plants)
– Grinding compatibility with coal (co-firing)
– Potential emission control system upgrades (co-firing)
– Ensuring sustainable feedstock supply near power plants (co-firing)
– Higher upfront investment (dedicated plants)
– Reliable feedstock supply chain (dedicated plants)
– Efficient and sustainable bio-coal production (dedicated plants)
Industrial Applications– Industries requiring process heat (textiles, paper, food processing)
– Brick kilns (areas with strict air pollution regulations)
– Cleaner and more efficient fuel source compared to coal/fossil fuels (process heat)
– Potentially reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (process heat)
– Reduces air pollution emissions (brick kilns)
– Contributes to cleaner brick production (brick kilns)
– Potentially improves fuel efficiency (brick kilns)
– Retrofitting existing boilers for bio-coal use (process heat)
– Ensuring consistent bio-coal quality and supply (process heat)
– Availability of affordable bio-coal briquettes/pellets (brick kilns)
– Modification of existing kilns for efficient bio-coal combustion (brick kilns)
– Sustainable feedstock sourcing without impacting agricultural land (brick kilns)
Domestic Applications (Potential)– Rural households currently using traditional biomass for cooking– Cleaner burning fuel compared to raw biomass
– Potentially improves indoor air quality
– Reduces health risks associated with traditional cooking methods
– Affordability for low-income households
– Development of efficient and user-friendly cookstoves
– Establishing distribution networks in rural areas
Other Potential Applications– Industrial facilities or power plants seeking alternative fuel sources– Bio-coal as feedstock for gasification
– Syngas production for power generation or conversion into biofuels
– Requires additional infrastructure for the gasification process
– Ensuring efficient syngas production and utilization
Soil Amendment (Char)– Agricultural lands potentially benefiting from improved soil fertility and carbon sequestration– Depending on specific properties, char produced during pyrolysis can be used as a soil amendment– Characterization of biochar properties crucial for suitability
– Potential negative impacts on soil health need evaluation

Key Challenges of Bio-Coal Production and Utilization

1. Feedstock Availability and Sustainability

  • Competition with Food Security: Balancing the use of agricultural residues like rice straw with maintaining crop yields and avoiding competition for land needed for food production.
  • Seasonality of Residues: Mitigating the challenge of seasonal availability of agricultural residues, particularly rice straw which is concentrated after harvest periods.
  • Decentralized Nature of Feedstock: Developing cost-effective collection and transportation systems for geographically dispersed feedstock sources, especially in rural areas with limited infrastructure.
  • Forestry Waste Management: Ensuring sustainable practices for utilizing forestry waste without compromising forest health or biodiversity.

2. Technical and Economic Challenges

  • High Capital Costs: Reducing the upfront investment required for setting up bio-coal conversion plants, particularly for smaller-scale operations.
  • Grid Integration Challenges: Addressing the challenges of integrating biomass power plants fueled by bio-coal into the existing power grid, considering factors like variable power generation and grid stability.
  • Limited Availability of Domestic Technology: While research efforts are ongoing, India currently relies on some imported technologies for bio-coal conversion. Encouraging domestic development and manufacturing of efficient and cost-effective bio-coal conversion technologies.

3. Environmental and Social Considerations

  • Air Pollution Concerns: Optimizing bio-coal conversion processes and combustion practices to minimize air pollution emissions like particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.
  • Water Usage: Developing water-efficient conversion technologies like hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) or exploring alternative approaches that minimize water consumption during bio-coal production.
  • Livelihood Impacts: Ensuring that bio-coal production creates sustainable livelihood opportunities in rural communities, particularly those involved in feedstock collection and processing.

4. Policy and Regulatory Framework

  • Clear Feedstock Sourcing Guidelines: Develop clear regulations regarding sustainable feedstock sourcing practices to prevent negative environmental impacts and ensure long-term feedstock availability.
  • Financial Incentives: Implementing financial incentives like subsidies, tax breaks, or carbon credits to encourage investment in bio-coal production and utilization technologies.
  • Biomass Power Purchase Agreements: Establishing favorable power purchase agreements for electricity generated from biomass power plants fueled by bio-coal to ensure economic viability.

5. Public Awareness and Capacity Building

  • Addressing Public Perception: Building public awareness about the potential benefits of bio-coal for clean energy generation and waste management, while also addressing concerns regarding potential environmental impacts.
  • Skilling the Workforce: Developing training programs and capacity-building initiatives to equip communities and workers with the necessary skills for sustainable bio-coal production, operation, and maintenance.

Key Drivers & Opportunities


  • Energy demand: Bio-coal offers a renewable, domestic source to meet India’s growing energy needs.
  • Climate change: Replacing fossil fuels with sustainable bio-coal can help reduce emissions.
  • Waste management: Bio-coal converts agricultural and forestry waste into a valuable resource.
  • Rural development: Creates jobs in feedstock collection, processing, and plant operations.
  • Supportive policies: Government initiatives are fostering bio-coal development.


  • Tech advancements: Improve efficiency and competitiveness through innovative conversion technologies.
  • Existing infrastructure: Utilize existing power plants by co-firing bio-coal with coal.
  • Decentralized power: Provide clean electricity to remote areas through bio-coal-powered generation.
  • Syngas production: Offer cleaner transportation options by converting bio-coal into biofuels.
  • Carbon sequestration: Potentially capture carbon through the char produced during bio-coal production.

State and Central Policies Supporting Bio-Coal in India

Central Government Initiatives

  • National Mission on Clean Ganga: Aims to clean the Ganges River, promoting the use of bio-coal briquettes for industrial units and brick kilns operating along the riverbanks.
  • National Biogas Mission: Includes bio-coal production as part of its broader focus on promoting the utilization of organic waste for energy generation.
  • UJALA (Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana): Aims to replace kerosene lamps with clean burning alternatives. Bio-coal briquettes are considered a potential option under this scheme.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY): Provides financial assistance to low-income rural households to acquire clean cooking fuel solutions. Bio-coal briquettes could be included in the future.
  • Subsidies and Tax Breaks: The government offers various financial incentives for setting up bio-coal production units, such as capital subsidies and tax breaks on bio-coal equipment and machinery.
  • Focus on Research and Development: Supports research institutions and universities to develop efficient and sustainable bio-coal conversion technologies.

State-Level Initiatives

  • Uttar Pradesh: Launched the “Bio Energy Policy 2022” offering incentives for setting up bio-coal production plants, with additional support for infrastructure development and land acquisition.
  • Maharashtra: Established the “Maharashtra Bio-Energy Development Board” to promote bio-coal production and utilization within the state.
  • Punjab and Haryana: Implement “Paddy Straw Management Schemes” to encourage farmers to utilize rice straw for various purposes, including bio-coal production.
  • Tamil Nadu: Focuses on research and development of bio-coal technologies through institutions like IIT Madras.

Business Models in the Bio-Coal Sector in India

Business ModelDescriptionKey PlayersExample
Feedstock Aggregation and SupplyCompanies or cooperatives collect, process, and transport biomass feedstock to bio-coal conversion plants.– Aggregators – Farmers
– Cooperatives
– Logistics companies
A farmer’s cooperative in Punjab collects and processes rice straw from its members and supplies it to a bio-coal plant.
Bio-Coal ConversionCompanies own and operate bio-coal conversion plants, utilizing various technologies like pyrolysis or torrefaction to convert feedstock into bio-coal.– Independent bio-coal producers established energy companiesA private company sets up a bio-coal plant using pyrolysis technology and sells bio-coal to power plants for co-firing.
Integrated Bio-Coal Production and Power GenerationCompanies own the entire value chain, managing feedstock sourcing, bio-coal conversion, and power generation using dedicated biomass power plants.– Large energy companies
– Consortiums
A large energy company establishes plantations for dedicated energy crops, converts the biomass into bio-coal at its plant, and generates electricity in a bio-coal-fired power plant.
Bio-Coal Briquette Production and DistributionCompanies manufacture bio-coal briquettes from bio-coal or raw biomass for use in domestic applications like cookstoves or industrial processes.– Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
– startups
A local entrepreneur sets up a unit to produce bio-coal briquettes from agricultural residues and distributes them to households in rural areas for clean cooking.
Technology ProvidersCompanies develop, license, and sell bio-coal conversion technologies to other players in the sector.– Engineering firms
– Research institutions
A technology startup develops an innovative bio-coal conversion method and licenses it to bio-coal producers for a fee.

Strategic Initiatives by Indian Industries in Bio-Coal

Industry SegmentInitiativesExamples
Large Energy CompaniesDiversification strategies: Exploring co-firing in existing coal plants.NTPC: Pilot project for co-firing bio-coal in a thermal power plant.
Biomass power plant investments: Investing in dedicated bio-coal power plants.Dalmia Bharat Cement: Exploring the feasibility of a bio-coal power plant for internal power generation.
Startups and SMEs Focus on technology and innovation: Developing innovative bio-coal conversion technologies.Takachar (Bengaluru): Developing a portable pyrolysis unit for decentralized bio-coal production.
Briquette production and distribution: Manufacturing and distributing bio-coal briquettes.Various SMEs across India: Setting up units to produce bio-coal briquettes for domestic and industrial use.
Industry Associations and CollaborationsAdvocacy and research promotion: Supporting research and development, and promoting the bio-coal sector.Bioenergy Association of India (BEA): Conducting workshops, facilitating industry dialogues, and advocating for supportive policies.
Partnerships with research institutions: Collaborating with research institutions for technology development.IIT Delhi and private companies: Joint research projects on advanced bio-coal conversion technologies.


The bio-coal sector in India, though still in its early stages, shows significant promise as a renewable energy source capable of addressing multiple challenges such as CO2 emissions reduction, fossil fuel dependence, and waste management. With growing interest and pilot projects underway, the sector is poised for substantial growth supported by government initiatives, technological advancements, and an increasing demand for clean energy. The involvement of key players, including research institutions, private companies, and government undertakings, indicates a collaborative effort towards scaling up production and commercialization of bio-coal.

To capitalize on this potential, strategic initiatives must focus on overcoming key challenges related to feedstock availability, technical and economic hurdles, and environmental impacts. The development of supportive policies, financial incentives, and public awareness programs will be crucial in driving the sector forward. By leveraging advancements in conversion technologies and fostering sustainable practices, India can establish a robust bio-coal industry that contributes significantly to its energy security, rural development, and environmental sustainability goals.

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