India’s Ethanol Plan

In June 2021, the Central government has released a committee report on the “Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025”. What are the highlights of this report? Let us have a look.

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is an organic alcohol that also acts as a biofuel. Naturally, ethanol is produced by a fermentation of sugar by yeasts or some other chemicals.

What is Ethanol Blending?

Ethanol blending is a process of mixing ethanol with some other liquids, such as petrol.

Why is Ethanol blended with Petrol?

India is a growing country. According to UN reports, by 2030, India will surpass China and become the most populous country globally; this rapid growth in population results in the increased demand for Petrol for various purposes like transport. Petrol is extensively used in motor vehicles. But combustion of petrol results in environmental issues and health hazards. It also contributes to increasing the level of air pollution.

Adding ethanol to petrol won’t only reduce air pollution but will also be a fruitful way to meet the demand of a growing population.

Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP)

Ethanol Blending Programme aims at adding ethanol with petrol; this will bring petrol into the category of biofuel as the standard petrol is a non-renewable fossil fuel.

What is the E20 mission?

E20 is a target of the Government of India. It targets to advance 20% ethanol blending in petrol by 2025-30.

What are the advantages of the E20 Ethanol Blending Mission?

Ethanol blending can result in the following advantages for a country and its socio-economic conditions:

  • Reduce import cost: In 2020-21, the net import cost of India stood at 551 billion USD. The E20 program helps reduce the overall requirement of petrol in the country; this can save up to 4 billion USD and ultimately reduce the oil import bill.
  • Pollution-free Incentives: The blending of ethanol with petrol decreases the emissions of harmful and toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides; this will ultimately help maintain environmental concerns.
  • Profits for Farmers: Ethanol is obtained as a byproduct of the sugar industry. Thus, E20 will be an encouragement to the sugarcane farmers.

What are the challenges of the E20 Mission?

  • Unregulated carbonyl emissions: The E20 the biofuel emits more acetaldehyde than the normal petrol.
  • Augmenting Infrastructure: The project required the setting of modern infrastructure for handling ethanol storage, blending and dispensing.
  • High price of E20 petrol: Ethanol blended petrol is a bit higher in price when compared to normal petrol.
  • Food insecurity: Ethanol is also said to be derived from rice, corn and sugar. This ambitious plan to cut fossil fuels could undermine its food security as the edible grains are now being used as a raw material for a commercial chemicals.
  • Land and water: The new roadmap of India’s Ethanol Plan would require land and massive quantities of water for proper irrigation of biofuel crops. This can lead to an increase in the cost of biofuel.
  • Efficiency: The efficiency of biofuel is less than energy produced by the same quantity of fossil fuel.

A Way Forward

The government of India has made its statement in regard to food security. It has been stated that the country has enough stockpiles of grains. Also, when stating that sugarcane is a water-consuming crop, the government presented the argument saying that demand for Ethanol can also be met through crops like maize. The government assured that the E20 plan would greatly benefit the farmers as a side income. Also, implementing E20 on a long term plan can fill the drawbacks of the mission. The government, as an initiative, under the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, has mandated stickers on vehicles indicating their E20, E85 and E100 compatibility. To support the roadmap of the Ethanol project in India, the government has introduced the following schemes.

  • E100 pilot projects: It was integrated into Pune. TVS Apache has designed E80 compatible two-wheelers.
  • National Policy on Biofuels: This policy supports the E20 mission by 2030.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ji-VAN Yojana: It includes the GOBAR DHAN scheme.
  • Repurpose used cooking oil: This initiative will help in the collection and conservation of used cooking oil to biodiesel.

Currently, 8.5% of ethanol is added with petrol. This statics is way too far compared to the desired target. Right now, India has an opportunity to grab. It can become a global leader in sustainable biofuels production.

Though minor amendments are required, the country should try to produce more ethanol from waste content. Research should be done to tackle the emissions of E20 petrol, and crop production should be modified. Development should be done taking land, soil and water factors in mind. With these policies, E29 plan can be of great success.