Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Second-generation bioethanol: It is time to launch it headlong


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bioethanol, Ethanol blending

Mains level : Ethanol blended petrol (EBP) Program

India has been promoting 2G bioethanol to achieve its E20 target.

What is Bioethanol?

  • Biomass has always been a reliable source of energy.
  • Cultivated biomass has begun to be used to generate bioethanol.
  • They are categorised as first (1G), second (2G) and third-generation (3G), based on the source of raw material used for bioethanol production.

Its types

  • 1G bioethanol: Raw materials required are corn seeds and sugarcane; both are food sources. There is not enough food for everyone; so the use of 1G is a major concern. However, some countries have enough raw materials to manufacture 1G.
  • 2G bioethanol: It can be produced using inedible farm waste left over after harvest. Corn cobs, rice husks, wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse can all be transformed into cellulose and fermented into ethanol that can then be mixed with conventional fuels.
  • 3G bioethanol: Algae grown in wastewater, sewage or saltwater can be used to produce bioethanol. Water used for human consumption is not required. The benefit of 3G is that it does not compete with food. Nevertheless, economic viability remains a critical issue.

Ethanol blending in India

  • India currently blends approximately 8.5 per cent ethanol with petrol.
  • It is estimated that ethanol production in India will triple to approximately 10 billion litres per year by 2025.
  • The 2G plant will play a major role in making bioethanol available for blending.
  • In addition to reducing agricultural waste incineration, it can also help meet the goal of converting waste into energy.

Moves for production

  • The first 2G ethanol biorefinery is being set up at Bathinda, Punjab.
  • Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) plans to set up four 2G ethanol plants that will convert agricultural waste into biofuel, reducing toxic air pollution in northern India.
  • Additionally, HPCL has plans to build four plants to produce ethanol using grains, such as surplus maize, surplus rice and damaged grain.

Innovations in this field

  • An Indian company has filed a patent for loop reactor technology.
  • It is a long, serpentine tubular reactor, in which fermentable sugars are converted to ethanol with the help of brewer’s yeast.
  • This sparked an idea to come up with reactive pipeline technology, wherein the pipeline connects the sugar factories where the ethanol is produced to the blending depot at the closest oil manufacturing companies.
  • Reactive pipeline technology is poised to be a game-changer for sugar factories and grain-based distilleries since uninterrupted raw material supply is a major challenge.

Benefits offered by ethanol blending

(1) Energy security

  • The Union government has emphasized that increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill.
  • India’s net import cost stands at $551 billion in 2020-21. It is estimated that the E20 program can save the country $4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.

(2) Emission reduction

  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), the expert committee noted.
  • Higher reductions in CO emissions were observed with E20 fuel — 50 per cent lower in two-wheelers and 30 per cent lower in four-wheelers.

Some issues to be addressed

(1) Fuel efficiency

  • There is an estimated loss of six-seven per cent fuel efficiency for four-wheelers and three-four per cent for two-wheelers when using E20, the committee report noted.
  • These vehicles are originally designed for E0 and calibrated for E10.

(2) Recalibrating engines

  • The use of E20 will require new engine specifications and changes to the fuel lines, as well as some plastic and rubber parts due to the fuel’s corrosive nature.
  • The engines, moreover, will need to be recalibrated to achieve the required power, efficiency and emission-level balance due to the lower energy density of the fuel.


  • The country’s target of 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (E20) by 2025 can play a key role in reducing crude oil imports and bolstering India’s energy independence.
  • But India may miss an earlier goal set by him in 2015 — of reducing crude oil import dependency 10 per cent by 2022.
  • The target is far from being met and the country’s import dependency is only increasing.
  • The country’s target of 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (E20) by 2025 can play a key role in reducing crude oil imports and bolstering India’s energy independence.

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Back2Basics: EBP Programme

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in January 2003 for the supply of 5% ethanol blended petrol.
  • The programme sought to promote the use of alternative and environment-friendly fuels and to reduce import dependency for energy requirements.
  • OMCs are advised to continue according to priority of ethanol from 1) sugarcane juice/sugar/sugar syrup, 2) B-heavy molasses 3) C-heavy molasses and 4) damaged food grains/other sources.

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