[Watch] Odisha Agriprenuer Turns Rice Husk Ash Into Insulating Pellets For Steel Industries

OB Bureau

Bhubaneswar: If necessity is the mother of invention, then Odisha-based agripreneur Bibhu Prasad Sahu is a case in point.

Back in 2015—a year after Bibhu had established his boiled rice mill in Madanpur Rampur village in Kalahandi district—it had become a necessity for him to either dump or convert large amounts of rice husk ashes (a waste product in the mill) into something usable. Perturbed and perplexed, Bibhu was desperate in his search for an organic method of recycling the waste generated in his mill. A few years later, he was successful in resolving the crisis and the result was a useful invention.

From rice husk ash, Bibhu and his team made ball-shaped thermal insulators, which are now being used in some leading steel plants.

Rice husk is used as a thermal insulator in steel ladles and tundishes for controlling the non-uniform solidification of the hot metal during the process of casting. According to experts, rice husk has low thermal conductivity and a high melting point. But, spreading rice husk over the ladles for combustion isn’t a perfect solution.

Transportation of the husk isn’t easy. Not just that, the combustion of rice husk emits smoke. Considering all such issues, Bibhu realised that rice husk ash pellets would be more convenient to be used as insulators. He claims that the pellets burn uniformly, don’t emit smoke and are also 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than other insulators.

“I wanted to recycle the rice husk ash, which if left untreated, can cause air pollution. We sent rice husk ash samples to a laboratory in Raipur. The chemical analysis showed that the rice husk ash contains about 85 per cent amorphous silica, which can be used for insulation. Now, the only challenge was how to convert the ash into pellets,” he added.

Bibhu accepted the challenge. “I didn’t have the knowledge to make pellets out of rice husk ash. I roped in experts from Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, and some other states. But all efforts went in vain. None could come up with any solution,” said Bibhu, who had started his career as a para-teacher in 2001 after graduating in science from Government College, Bhawanipatna.

The agriprenuer—who had quit his job in 2007 to venture into paddy business—turned to his roots for finding an amicable solution to the ‘pellet problem.’ “I went to my village and contacted four to five local youths from the potters’ community. They have innate knowledge about the earth and its elements. I brought them to my mill. I also took the help of the engineers to fabricate the machines used in the mills. Finally, we were able to shape the ash into pellets,” said Bibhu, who had conceived the idea of converting the ash into balls during his interaction with the experts at a steel factory in Egypt in 2018.

The first consignment of the pellets, manufactured under the banner of Haripriya Agro Industries, was shipped to Saudia Arabia in 2019. Since, he has supplied the pellets to industries in Taiwan, Bahrain, Egypt, among other places. His mill generates around 3 tonnes of rice husk every day.

And, a tonne of rice husk ash pellets cost between Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000, depending on the transportation cost. In 2019, Bibhu claimed to have made about Rs 20 lakh by exporting 100 tonne of pellet. But, the business didn’t pick up pace amid the pandemic and subsequent lockdown owing to an increase in freight charges. “Now, I am focusing on domestic clients so that the transportation cost is not much,” he said.

OB Bureau

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