Bioethanol Blending of Petrol
Part of: GS Paper – III Growth & Development; Conservation Environmental Pollution & Degradation
- 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).
- The EBP was launched in line with the National Biofuels Policy, 2018.
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).
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.