India achieves 10% ethanol blending target in petrol - GulfToday

India achieves 10% ethanol blending target in petrol

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

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India is looking at an indicative target of 20% ethanol blending in petrol by the year 2030.

On World Environment Day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India has achieved the target of 10% ethanol blending in petrol five months before deadline.

Making the announcement at a programme on the ‘Save Soil Movement’, which coincided with the World Environment Day, PM Modi cited a number of measures taken by his government to protect the environment, saying its efforts have been multi-dimensional despite the country having a negligible role in climate change.

The rise in ethanol blending in petrol from two per cent in 2014 to 10% now has reduced carbon emission by 2.7 million tonnes and saved Rs 41,000 crore of forex reserve. This has also brought Rs 400,000 million of income to farmers, he added. In his address, the prime minister also said India has also achieved its goal of having 40 per cent of its installed power generation from non-fossil fuel-based sources nine years before the deadline.

According to a Government of India press release, the Indian government has been promoting the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme. The ‘National Policy on Biofuels’ notified by the Government in 2018 envisaged an indicative target of 20% ethanol blending in petrol by the year 2030. However, considering the encouraging performance, due to various interventions made by the Government since 2014, the target of 20% ethanol blending was advanced from 2030 to 2025-26.

A “Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India 2020-25” was also released by the Prime Minister in June 2021, which laid out a detailed pathway for achieving 20% ethanol blending. This roadmap also mentioned an intermediate milestone of 10% blending to be achieved by November 2022.

However, the target of 10% blending under the programme was achieved much ahead of the targeted timeline of November 2022 due to the coordinated efforts of Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). The press release adds that this achievement in the course of the last eight years has not only augmented India’s energy security but also translated into a forex impact, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and led to the expeditious payment of over Rs 406,000 million to farmers. With all the initiatives taken by the Government, the EBP Programme is on track to achieve the target of 20% blending by 2025-26.

An article by The Print, however, points out that this is despite many issues being raised on the viability of food grain-sourced ethanol to achieve 20 per cent blending with petrol by 2025, particularly concerning food security and water scarcity. Currently, most petrol available across pumps in India is the ‘E10’ variety — a blend of the fuel with about 5 to 10 per cent ethanol. The government wants to increase the amount of ethanol-blending in petrol to the ‘E20’ level which will have between 15-20% per cent ethanol blended in the fuel. This is in a bid to reduce India’s dependence on imported crude oil, as India imports 85 per cent of its crude oil.

The Print article states that there are some serious questions being asked on ethanol blending, and the push by the government has seen stocks of sugar mills and alcohol companies rise, but valid concerns remain about food supplies being diverted to ethanol production, particularly as a food crisis looms globally. At the same time, the investments required by oil companies to maintain multiple supply chains for numerous fuels will increasingly become an issue.

The US Department of Energy defines ethanol is a renewable fuel made from various plant materials collectively known as ‘biomass’. Ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is a clear, colorless liquid. It is also known as ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, and EtOH. Ethanol has the same chemical formula regardless of whether it is produced from starch- or sugar-based feedstocks, such as corn grain (as it primarily is in the United States), sugar cane (as it primarily is in Brazil), or from cellulosic feedstocks (such as wood chips or crop residues).

Ethanol has a higher octane number than gasoline, providing premium blending properties. Minimum octane number requirements for gasoline prevent engine knocking and ensure drivability. Lower-octane gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol to attain the standard 87 octane. Ethanol contains less energy per gallon than gasoline, to varying degrees, depending on the volume percentage of ethanol in the blend. Denatured ethanol (98% ethanol) contains about 30% less energy than gasoline per gallon. Ethanol’s impact on fuel economy is dependent on the ethanol content in the fuel and whether an engine is optimized to run on gasoline or ethanol.

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