Two DFIs provide loan to Indian rice husk company

Usher Eco will use the loan to create 'green' silica for use in tires, while its parent company, rice miller Usher Agro, also received financing.

Indian company Usher Eco has been granted a $28m senior secured loan provided equally by the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) and German development finance institution DEG.

FMO also extended Indian rupee financing to Usher Eco’s parent company Usher Agro, a rice miller and rice, wheat and pulse processor which owns the brand Rasoi Raaja. The non-convertible debentures totalled the equivalent of $7.5 million.

Usher Eco will use the financing to establish the world’s first commercial-scale silica-extraction plant to produce “green” silica, made from rice husk ash.

The silica has been developed by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and Usher Eco, and will be used to replace the usual carbon black and traditional silica used in high-performance tires, according to a press release. The company said the silica saves fuel for car users because it reduces “rolling resistance”.

The “zero waste” process involves burning rice husks in a biomass power plant to create energy, then using the ash from that burning process to manufacture the silica.

FMO highlighted the project’s green credentials in its press release: “the silica extraction process allows extraction without using aggressive chemicals and at significantly lower temperatures than under the conventional process.” Further leftover can also be used as agricultural fertilisers.

The company will also use the financing to scale up its power plant and burning facility in the energy-deprived state of Uttar Pradesh in India from a capacity of 16 to 34MW.

Goodyear USA director Surendra Chawala said his company had entered into a supply agreement with Usher Eco for the off-take of silica produced from rice husk ash.