Bioethanol in Petrol 

#GS3 #Science&Technology 

The government has set targets of 10 per cent bioethanol blending of petrol by 2022 (from current levels of 5 percent) and to raise it to 20 per cent by 2030 under the ethanol blending programme to curb carbon emissions and reduce India’s dependence on imported crude oil. 

1G and 2G bioethanol plants are set to play a key role in making bio-ethanol available for blending but face challenges in attracting investments from the private sector. 

What are 1G and 2G biofuel plants? 

  • 1G bioethanol plants utilise sugarcane juice and molasses, byproducts in the production of sugar, as raw material, while 2G plants utilise surplus biomass and agricultural waste to produce bio-ethanol. 
  • Currently, domestic production of bioethanol is not sufficient to meet the demand for bio-ethanol for blending with petrol at Indian Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). 
  • Sugar mills, which are the key domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were only able to supply 1.9 billion litres of bio-ethanol to OMCs equating to 57.6 per cent of the total demand of 3.3 billion litres. 

3G and 4G biofuels  

  • Third generation biofuel is made from algae. The fourth-generation biofuels combine genetically engineered feedstock with genomically synthesised microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria, to efficiently generate bioenergy, and they are made using non-arable land similar to third-generation biofuels. 

Why are Indian plants not able to meet the demand for bio-ethanol? 

  • Experts point out that many sugar mills which are best placed to produce bioethanol do not have the financial stability to invest in biofuel plants and there and there are also concerns among investors on the uncertainty o the price of bio-ethanol in the future. 
  • It is to be noted that the sugar mills have had to pay high prices for sugarcane set by the government even when there have been supply gluts. 
  • The prices of both sugarcane and bio-ethanol are set by the central government. The price of obtaining agricultural waste required for the production of bio-ethanol at 2G plants was currently too high for it to be viable for private investors in the country. 

What needs to be done? 

  • The experts suggest that the state governments need to set up depots where farmers could drop their agricultural waste and that the central government should fix a price for agricultural waste to make investments in 2G bioethanol production an attractive proposition. 
  • Experts say the government could provide greater visibility on the price of bioethanol that sugar mills can expect by announcing a mechanism by which the price of bio-ethanol would be decided. 
  • 2G bioethanol not only provided a clean source of energy, but also helped to provide greater income to farmers and prevent them from having to burn agricultural waste which can be a major source of air pollution. 
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