INDIA GLYCOLS pursues green chemistry as a sound strategy for long-term growth

Relevant implications for the Chemicals sector identified in GEO-5 for Business:

  • Increasing market and regulatory pressure to alter business models and products, including advancing “green chemistry”
  • More companies requiring higher standards and quality from their suppliers
  • Enhanced reputation and brand value of companies pursuing “green chemistry”
  • Exposure to fossil fuel price and supply fluctuations (e.g., from constraints or costs on fossil fuels imposed by climate-related policies), affecting energy sources and feedstocks

The global chemical industry is increasingly moving to the East. The Indian chemical sector is the 3rd largest market in Asia today and is expected to grow by 10% or more per annum over the next few years (double the growth rate of the global industry). This puts huge demands on already scarce and increasingly expensive energy sources. Rapid industrialization in India is also generating large quantities of industrial and agricultural waste, both solid and liquid, from production processes for sugar, pulp and paper, food processing, distilling, and dairies, among others. At the same time, consumer companies all over the world that need various chemical products are becoming increasingly regulated and are facing increasing market pressure to use more environmentally friendly chemicals. India Glycols Limited (IGL) has found innovative ways to address these challenges – providing “green” chemicals derived from renewable agricultural feedstocks and turning waste into biofuels as an alternative fuel source and to power the company’s own processes.  

Pioneering innovation in green chemistry products

From its beginning in 1983, India Glycols developed a business strategy based on processes and technologies that offer more sustainable alternatives while ensuring long-term profitability. Although IGL started looking into bio-based chemicals more than 20 years ago, the company has been exploring them much more consciously over the past 5 years as it further embraces sustainability. IGL has pursued an innovative “green” approach in the course of becoming one of the leading manufacturers of ethylene oxide and its derivatives, as well as natural gums and potable alcohol.

IGL develops chemical products that use sustainable bio-based feedstocks (e.g., renewable agricultural commodities such as crop-derived sugars and cellulose) instead of oil and gas. For instance, partly as a result of increasing regulatory pressures on managing waste, IGL uses agricultural waste such as molasses (a by-product of sugar refining) to produce ethylene oxide for the subsequent manufacturing of glycols, derivatives such as glycol ethers and ethoxylates, and other chemicals.  

IGL has also installed a pilot plant for converting lignocellulosic biomass — abundantly available in waste material like rice straw, wheat straw, bagasse, paper pith, and Napier grass — into biofuels (mainly bio-ethanol), working in collaboration with the Indian Government.  With capacity to handle 10 tons of biomass per day, the plant will aim to resolve technical roadblocks in lignocellulosic ethanol technology.  IGL’s sustainability efforts thus help addresses India’s national waste problem by using agricultural waste as a resource.

Beyond the use of renewable feedstocks, IGL is also working to reduce product toxicity, such as with eco-friendly and biodegradable amphoteric surfactants for personal care products.

Improving sustainability of internal operations

In addition to the products and processes it has developed, IGL has pursued similar sustainability efforts within its own operations. For instance, when IGL entered the natural active pharmaceutical ingredients and nutraceuticals market (under its Ennature Biopharma division), it adopted the practice of using carbon dioxide as a non-toxic solvent, replacing the hazardous acids often used in other production processes.

The company has also invested money and skills to convert its own waste into energy to drive the company’s production processes. In IGL’s plants in Kashipur and Gorakhpur, effluent and slop from distilleries are concentrated and converted to fuel for unique locally designed boilers that provide steam to turbines for the generation of electricity. The Gorakhpur project alone reduces CO2 equivalent emissions by an estimated 110,157 tons per annum.

Overall, IGL has documented a decrease in its carbon emissions of between 30% and 35% since 1983.

Business growth and new markets

IGL’s sustainable approach has opened markets, as is reflected in the company’s financials. With US$ 570 million in revenue in 2013 (up from US$ 432 million in 2012 and US$ 187.2 million in 2009), three production plants in India, and 1,500 employees, the company has become the leading Indian manufacturer of bulk, specialty, and performance chemicals, as well as natural gums, spirits, industrial gases, sugar, and nutraceuticals. 

The reputational and market benefits associated with green chemistry bode well for IGL, as an initiator and leader in the chemicals sector in India. The company’s international clients face increasing pressure to comply with sustainable practices and thus are increasingly demanding more sustainable products. IGL has established itself as a reliable supplier of bio-based products that contribute to its business customers’ own sustainability objectives.

Many leading brands in Europe, the Americas, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan are now opting for more environmentally friendly packaging for beverages and water, food packaging films, and fabrics and plastics for car interiors, and these are IGL’s target markets for its bio-based products for the near future. IGL also sees a future for its bio-based products in applications in home and personal care, pharmaceuticals, and the construction Industry.

About IGL

IGL employs 1,500 people and has operations in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat. It is categorized as a Large Scale Enterprise in India.

Quote Rakesh Bhartia – CEO India Glycols Limited

“IGL believes green, environmental consciousness lies at the basis of our success.  Our aim is to be at the forefront of efforts against global threats such as global warming, resource depletion, and chemical product toxicity. However we can’t do this alone. Together, manufacturers and users need to shoulder equal responsibility for conserving the environment and resources through green chemistry.” 

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