Biofuel industry in india 2013

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To supplement transport fuels based on petroleum, biofuel industry is encouraged in India

To supplement transport fuels based on petroleum, biofuel industry is encouraged in India

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  • 1. Home News 2013 05 Indian biofuel industry – the story so far News article | April 30, 2013 The demand for transportation fuels is growing rapidly in India. In order to cut down its dependence on imports, the country has been focusing on environmentally friendly alternatives like biofuels. The Government of India has been very keen on promoting biofuel production with its policy measures and R&D support. Ever increasing fuel prices and the global uproar about rapidly declining reserves of fossil fuels have prompted power producers to examine other, commercially viable and environmentally friendly alternatives. In India, one of the strongest contenders for the top spot as the next-best substitute for petrol and diesel is biofuel, which is majorly extracted from the seeds of the ‘Jatropha’ plant. Currently, there is a lot of research work going on in third generation production of biofuels in India. Biofuel production from first and secondgeneration sources faces political opposition in India, as those raw materials are either fit for human or animal consumption. Only when a product has exhausted its complete use as food for humans or feed for animals, can it get into third generation production. At present, ethanol is the most widely produced biofuel in India and recently, it is being produced from sugarcane waste which is abundantly available in the country. According to Indian Sugar Mills Association [1] (ISMA), annual sugarcane production in 2011-12 is 1
  • 2. estimated to be around 380 million tonnes. In a recent report, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has pegged India's ethanol production at 2,170 million litres in 2012, against 1,681 million litres last year. Of the total amount of ethanol produced, it is estimated that 400 million litres was blended with gasoline. Recently, biologically produced butanol has emerged as an alternative biofuel. Butanol has proved to be a better biofuel than the widely acclaimed ethanol, because it is less corrosive and it can easily blend with gasoline. Moreover, butanol can be produced from ligno-cellulosic biomass of sugarcane waste because of which, manufacturers feel that the existing ethanol distilleries can be upgraded for the production of butanol. There are, at present, 330 distilleries in India, out of which, 140 have the capacity to distil around 2 billion litres of conventional ethanol per year. Due to the rising population and ever growing energy demand, the Government of India (GoI) is keen on promoting biofuel production in India. It is in this context that the GoI announced its 'National Biofuel Policy' on 12 September 2008. The government aims to meet 20% of India's diesel demand with fuel derived from plants. This will mean setting aside 140,000 square kilometres of land, where at present, fuel yielding plants cover less than 5,000 square kilometres. The January notification by GoI said that by 2017, every litre of petrol should be blended with 20% of ethanol. As a result, some companies are planning investments for capacity expansion and new plants to cater to the anticipated requirement, while others are looking at focusing 2
  • 3. on research and development to tap alternative methods for ethanol production. However, the research is still at a very nascent stage, especially when we talk about butanol production in India and most of the R&D initiatives are still government driven. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), under the Ministry of Science and Technology is responsible for administrating development and commercialization of biotechnology in India. DBT has been supporting almost every R&D initiative currently being undertaken for butanol production in India. 3