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Bioethanol Blending of Petrol

  • 18 Aug 2020
  • 7 min read

Why in News

The government has set targets of 10% bioethanol blending of petrol by 2022 and to raise it to 20% by 2030 under the Ethanol Blended Programme (EBP).

Key Points

  • Many countries, including India, have adopted ethanol blending in petrol in order to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and also to reduce the import burden on account of crude petroleum.
    • Currently, the bioethanol blending in petrol stands at 5%.
  • Reasons for Ethanol Blending:
    • It is estimated that a 5% blending can result in replacement of around 1.8 million Barrels of crude oil.
    • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
    • The renewable ethanol content, which is a by-product of the sugar industry, is expected to result in a net reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC).
  • Background:
    • The Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in January, 2003 by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) .
      • The EBP seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with Petrol with a view to reducing pollution, conserving foreign exchange and increasing value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
      • The Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are to procure ethanol from domestic sources at remunerative prices fixed by the government.
      • The Central Government recently extended the ambit of the programme to extract the fuel from surplus quantities of food grains such as maize, jawar, bajra fruit and vegetable waste which was limited only to sugarcane previously.
    • Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana to create an ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and boost to Research and Development in 2G Ethanol sector.
      • 1G bioethanol plants utilise sugarcane juice and molasses, byproducts in the production of sugar, as raw material, while 2G plants utilise surplus biomass and agricultural waste to produce bioethanol.
      • This scheme is promoting Second Generation (2G) Biofuels Technology moving away from food crops used in First Generation(1G) to feedstocks, nonfood crops agricultural residues or waste.
      • The three public OMCs Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. are currently in the process of setting up 2G bioethanol plants.
    • India celebrated World Biofuel Day on 10th August 2020 with the theme “Biofuels towards Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
  • Challenges in Ethanol Blending:
    • Less Production: Currently, domestic production of bioethanol is not sufficient to meet the demand for bio-ethanol for blending with petrol at Indian OMCs.
      • Sugar mills, which are the key domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were able to supply only 57.6% of the total demand.
      • Sugar mills do not have the financial stability to invest in biofuel plants.
      • There are also concerns among investors on the uncertainty on the price of bioethanol in the future as the prices of both sugarcane and bio-ethanol are set by the central government.
    • Water Footprint: While India has become one of the top producers of ethanol but it lags top producers, the USA and Brazil, by a huge margin and remains inefficient in terms of water usage.
      • India's water requirements for producing ethanol are not met through rainwater and the groundwater is used for drinking and other purposes.
      • Water footprint, that is water required to produce a litre of ethanol, includes rainwater at the root zone used by ethanol-producing plants such as sugarcane, and surface, ground water, and fresh water required to wash away pollutants.
    • Limited Sugarcane Availability: Sugarcane is another limited resource that affects the ethanol blending in the country.
      • In order to achieve a 20% blend rate, almost one-tenth of the existing net sown area will have to be diverted for sugarcane production. Any such land requirement is likely to put a stress on other crops and has the potential to increase food prices.
      • India’s biofuel policy stipulates that fuel requirements must not compete with food requirements and that only surplus food crops should be used for fuel production, if at all.
    • Lack of Alternatives: Producing ethanol from crop residue can be a good alternative but the annual capacity of biorefinery is still not enough to meet the 5% petrol-ethanol blending requirement.
      • Other biofuels such as Jatropha have often proven to be commercially unviable.
    • Handling issues: Ethanol being a highly flammable liquid marks obligatory safety and risk assessment measures during all phases of production, storage and transportation, thus increasing the cost and risk factor.

Way Forward

  • 2G bioethanol not only provided a clean source of energy, but also helped to provide greater income to farmers and help meet the aim of doubling the farmers income by 2020 and prevent them from having to burn agricultural waste which can be a major source of air pollution.
  • The government could provide greater visibility on the price of bioethanol by announcing a mechanism by which the price of bio-ethanol would be decided.
  • Setting a target that a certain percentage of ethanol blending be done using ethanol generated from 2G plants would help boost investment in the area. Also, alternatives like 3rd generation (derived from algae) and 4th generation biofuels (derived from specially engineered plants or biomass) should be encouraged.

Source: IE

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