India’s Path to E20 Ethanol Blending Boosted by Increased Grain-Based Production

For the first time, India has achieved a higher ethanol production from grains, especially maize, than sugar-based feedstock, on the back of a government cap on the diversion of sugar for producing the biofuel.

The share of grain-based ethanol stands at nearly 51% so far in the current ethanol-supply year (November 2023-October 2024), said two officials with access to data.

Till 9 June, 357.12 crore litres of ethanol have been produced-175.74 crore litres from sugar-based feedstock-sugarcane juice, B-heavy molasses and C-heavy molasses-and 181.38 crore litres from grain-based feedstock-damaged foodgrains, surplus rice and maize available with Food Corp. of India, said one of the officials. Molasses are a byproduct of the sugar-making process.  Maize alone has contributed 110.82 crore litres, the official added.

Ethanol: An eco-friendly fuel or another green mirage. The country blended 506 crore litres of the renewable fuel in the supply year 2022-23, of which 27% or 137 crore litres came from grains, including 32 crore litres from maize, said two ethanol makers.

India has achieved an ethanol blend of 12.7% with petrol as of 9 June, against the target of 15% for the current year

The government, which has set a 2025-26 deadline for achieving E20 (20% ethanol blended) petrol, is trying to diversify sources for ethanol production to reduce its dependency on sugar-based feedstock.

For the same, the government capped the diversion of sugar for producing the green fuel at 1.7 million tonnes for the 2023-24 supply year in December. The Centre, later in April, allowed sugar mills to convert their existing stock of 670,000 tonnes of B-heavy molasses—accumulated before the introduction of the cap—into ethanol.

Ethanol, a 99.9% pure alcohol, is added to fuel to reduce the country’s dependence on imported crude oil. In India, the biofuel is primarily produced from sugar-based feedstock and grains.

For Nitin Gadkari, the answer lies in ethanol. Meanwhile, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Ltd (NCCF) are procuring maize from farmers to promote the grain as a major feedstock for ethanol production. Till 10 June, the two agencies procured about 3,600 tonnes of maize and received purchase orders of around 9,300 tonnes from distilleries, the second official said.

On Tuesday, at the 64th International Sugar Organization under the chairmanship of India, Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Pralhad Joshi said the government is committed to achieve 20% blending by 2025-26 and “probably the supply of ethanol from grain-based feedstock will be more than sugar-based feedstock in 2023-24 ethanol supply year.

Source: Live Mint