Sugar production should be reduced to increase conversion to ethanol

Contact Counsellor

Sugar production should be reduced to increase conversion to ethanol

  • The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has given a clarion call to the sugar factories to make a shift to conversion of sugar into ethanol while addressing the Sugar & Ethanol India Conference (SEIC) 2022.
  • It will be in line with the realities of changing times and the needs of the nation.

The Superior Economics of Ethanol

  • The Govt has issued advisory to introduce flex engines within six months
  • Govt. of India has also decided to open biofuel outlets for citizens to fill ethanol and that cars, scooters, motorcycles and rickshaws can be available on flex engine
  • If sugar factories who manufacture ethanol ,open ethanol pumps in their factories and other areas
  • This can bring in 100% ethanol-run scooters, auto rickshaws and cars and thus increase ethanol consumption, reduce pollution, bring down imports and also provide jobs to people in villages.

Flex Fuel Engine

  • It is an internal combustion engine that can run on more than one type of fuel and also a mixture.
  • Typically, a blend of petrol and ethanol or methanol is used, and the engine is capable of automatically adjusting for any ratio, because of modifications like a fuel composition sensor and suitable ECU programming.
  • These engines are capable of running on 100 percent petrol or ethanol and are already available in countries such as Brazil, USA and Canada

Uses of Ethanol

  • Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline to form different blends.
  • Indian Air force has experimented by flying a fighter jet on 100% bio-ethanol
  • Govt is exploring more ways to increase use of ethanol in aviation sector and in the Indian Air Force
  • Ethanol can be an import-substituting, cost-effective, pollution-free and indigenous solution

Ethanol blending programme in India

  • In 2001, the Centre initiated pilot projects in which 5 percent ethanol mixed gasoline was delivered to retail outlets
  • The success of field testing finally prepared the way for the January 2003 introduction of the Ethanol Mixed Petrol (EBP) Program, which allowed for the sale of 5% ethanol blended gasoline in nine states and four UTs.
  • In India, 5% of ethanol is now mixed with gasoline.
  • The Indian government has moved the deadline for 20% ethanol blending in gasoline (commonly known as E20) from 2030 to 2025.
  • E20 will be available in April 2023.

Associated Challenges

  • Less Output: At the moment, domestic bioethanol production is insufficient to fulfil the demand for bioethanol for blending with petrol at Indian OMCs.
  • Sugar mills, which are the primary domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were only able to meet 57.6 percent of overall demand.
  • Sugar mills lack the financial resources to invest in biofuel facilities.
  • Water Footprint: While India has become one of the top producers of ethanol, it trails much behind the top producers, the United States and Brazil, in terms of water use and remains inefficient.
  • Rainwater cannot provide India's water requirements for ethanol production, and groundwater is used for drinking and other uses.
  • Sugarcane Availability: Another scarce resource affecting ethanol blending in the nation is sugarcane.
  • To reach a 20% blend rate, about one-tenth of the present net planted land must be shifted for sugarcane cultivation.
  • Any such land demand is likely to put pressure on other crops and may raise food costs.
  • Handling issues: Because ethanol is a highly flammable liquid, it necessitates mandatory safety and risk assessment procedures at all stages of manufacturing, storage, and transportation, raising the cost and risk factor.

Way Forward

  • To introduce compatible cars, the committee advises rolling out E20 material-compliant and E10 engine-tuned vehicles in April 2023, followed by production of E20-tuned engine vehicles in April 2025.
  • The Centre must investigate measures to lessen the program's reliance on sugarcane.
  • Alternative feedstock, such as agricultural waste and recycled cooking oil, enables the production of more ecologically friendly biofuels.
  • There is a need to focus on increasing non-cane ethanol contributions to the ethanol mix.
  • This may be accomplished by incentivizing both public and private parties to build second-generation ethanol plants.
  • As we move toward increased ethanol blending, rigorous monitoring and assessment of emissions changes will be required to ensure that emission reduction potential may be maximised for both regulated and uncontrolled emissions.