Seventeen year-old Pranav Raghav Sood spent his summer holidays this year running from one restaurant to another. Not for dates, but research. Sood spent the three months devising a way to help his city, Bangalore, tackle air pollution. An attempt to link poor waste disposal and air pollution led him to create a biodiesel, using used cooking oil from the city’s restaurants.
“There are approximately 3,000 restaurants in Bangalore, of which 600 are part of my project. Most restaurant owners I spoke to were happy to give away their used oil for free,” says Sood. Typically, restaurants either reuse the oil for cooking (which is unhealthy because of transfat) or just dump it without treating it.
Next, Sood began calculating cost and efficiency. Creating biodiesel from used cooking oil, he found, is not only a great to way reuse the oil but is also more cost-effective than other biofuels. The cost of the fuel per litre would be approximately Rs 16-18, half the price of creating biofuels using plant cellulose. “The difference in calorific quantity the amount of energy burned per litre between the two is negligible too,” adds Sood.
“The biodiesel can be used in place of any fuel once the engine is appropriately altered. But I feel the best use for it would be in telecom towers in the city, which rely heavily on generators because of constant power cuts. This may not be the largest source of air pollution, but it certainly is an important factor,” he says.
It is compulsory to use a minimum of five per cent biodiesel in most Indian states. “But that is not enough. The minimum ought to be at least 20 per cent,” he continues. “If telecom towers started using about 20 per cent of this fuel, they would not only save a total of Rs 3.3 crore per year but also reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 3 million kg per annum.” Sood has taken his solution to an energy management company which he says has responded positively. “They said they would integrate it in their solutions,” he adds.
“I have lived in the city since I was five, but it is only in the past five years that the situation has gone out of control,” rues Sood, blaming the increasing population and lack of government initiatives for air pollution.
In the past, Sood has worked to improve the city’s waste management and disposal methods. Last November he helped set up an environment club at his school, National Public School in Indira Nagar. Sood, who wants to study engineering and management, is keen to continue his research on renewable energy. “It is the next big thing. Biofuel in particular is very pertinent because unlike wind or solar energy, creating biofuel is possible across the board,” he concludes.