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About The Ethanol Impetus


Prime Minister, at a G20 Energy Ministers’ meet recently, said that India has rolled out 20% ethanol-blended petrol this year and aims to “cover the entire country by 2025”.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Biofuel
  2. Ethanol and Ethanol Blending in India
  3. Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

About Biofuel

  • Biofuel is a fuel produced from biomass over a short time span, distinct from the slow natural processes forming fossil fuels like oil.
  • It is usually reserved for liquid or gaseous fuels used in transportation, while biomass may refer to any fuel source.
  • Common biofuels include bioalcohols (e.g., ethanol, propanol, butanol), biodiesel, and bio-oils.
Blend with Petroleum Products:
  • Biofuels are often blended with refined petroleum products like gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, and jet fuel for consumption.
  • Some biofuels, called drop-in biofuels, do not require blending and can be used directly.
Generations of Biofuel:
  • First Generation (1G): Produced from consumable food items containing starch (rice, wheat) or sugar (beets, sugarcane) for bioalcohols and vegetable oils for biodiesel. They may impact food security due to low yields.
  • Second Generation (2G): Derived from non-food feedstocks like agricultural, forest, or industrial waste and used vegetable oils.
  • Third Generation (3G): Known as ‘algae fuel,’ obtained from algae in biodiesel and bioalcohol forms. Algae yield is higher than 2G, but challenges in scaling up extraction remain.
  • Fourth Generation (4G): Made from non-arable land without biomass destruction. Includes electro fuels and photo-biological solar fuels.

Ethanol and Ethanol Blending in India:

  • Ethanol is an agricultural by-product obtained mainly from the processing of sugar from sugarcane, but it can also be derived from other sources such as rice husk or maize.
  • Ethanol blending is the practice of mixing ethanol with petrol in order to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels in vehicles.
  • E20 fuel refers to a blend consisting of 20% ethanol and 80% petrol.
  • In February 2023, the Prime Minister of India launched the E20 fuel pilot project in Bengaluru, which involves blending 20% ethanol with petrol.
  • Initially, this pilot project covers at least 15 cities and is expected to be gradually implemented nationwide.
  • Over the years, India has been steadily increasing the proportion of ethanol blended with petrol. The blending rate has risen from 1.53% in 2013-14 to 10.17% in 2022.
  • The government has advanced its target of achieving 20% ethanol blending in petrol from 2030 to 2025, aiming to further reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  • As part of its G20 presidency, the Indian government has proposed the establishment of a global biofuel alliance with countries like Brazil. This alliance would focus on promoting the use of biofuels internationally.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in 2003- and this initiative is pursued aggressively in the last 4 to 5 years to reduce import dependence of crude oil as well as mitigate environmental pollution.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
  • Although the Government of India decided to launch EBP programme in 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol, it later scaled up blending targets from 5% to 10% under the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP).
  • The Government of India has also advanced the target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
  • Currently, 8.5% of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.

Advantages of Ethanol Blending

  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • The unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde emission were, however, higher with E10 and E20 compared to normal petrol. However, these emissions were relatively lower.
  • Increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill. India’s net import cost stands at USD 551 billion in 2020-21. The E20 program can save the country USD 4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.
  • The oil companies procure ethanol from farmers that benefits the sugarcane farmers.
  • Further, the government plans to encourage use of water-saving crops, such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024