Significance of biofuels in future

Source: By The Indian Express

The climate change and increasing health problems due to air pollution generated from the burning of fossil fuels, which are costly as well as scarce, have led to a rise in the popularity of biofuels or fuels derived from renewable sources like corn and sugarcane.

India on 10 August 2022 observed World Biofuel Day and Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a “second generation” ethanol plant in Haryana’s Panipat.

The day takes inspiration from German engineer Sir Rudolf Diesel, who successfully ran on 9 August 1893, an engine on oil derived from peanuts.

The fuel derived from the biomass of plants or animal wastes is known as biofuel. It is commonly produced from corn, sugarcane and animal waste like cow dung. Since these sources are renewable unlike fossil fuels, it comes under renewable sources of energy.

The two most common biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. The ethanol is produced by fermentation of residues of crops like corn and sugarcane. The ethanol after fermentation is mixed with petroleum, which dilutes the latter and reduces the emissions. Ethanol-10 or E10 is the most common blend in which 10 per cent composition is Ethanol.

On the other hand, Biodiesel is produced from used cooking oil, yellow grease or animal fats. During its production, cooking oil or fat is burned with alcohol in presence of a catalyst, which produces Biodiesel.

The United States has allowed the blending of gasoline with 10 per cent of Ethanol which is derived from corn. However, fuel in Brazil is sold with 85 per cent blending of Ethanol, produced mainly from sugarcane. In India, the government has mandated a 10 per cent blending of fuel with ethanol.

The Indian government approved the “National Policy on Biofuel” in 2018 which aims at 20 per cent of ethanal-blending and five per cent of bio-diesel blending by 2030.

It also aims at promoting the production of biofuels under the “Make in India” program. The biofuels were also included in the excise duty exemption to promote their production.

As per a report by the government, from 38 crore litres of Ethanol procured during 2013-14, it jumped nearly eight times to 322 crore litres in 2021-22.

It was calculated that an estimated over Rs 26,509 crores were saved from 2014 to 2021 by the blending.

The purchase bill of India, which imports 85 per cent of its energy needs, nearly doubled in the last year with a payment of nearly 119 billion US dollars due to a number of reasons, including supply chain disruptions from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

However, biofuel raises a few environmental issues. As per the report, one litre of ethanol from sugar requires about 2,860 litres of water and the growing demand for biofuels can change the cropping pattern and hit the crop basket.