Ethanol Ambitions

The Global Biofuel Alliance, announced at the G20 summit on 9 September 2023 in New Delhi, has the potential to generate opportunities worth billions of US dollars in the coming years.

Ethanol Ambitions

Representation image (Photo:SNS)

The Global Biofuel Alliance, announced at the G20 summit on 9 September 2023 in New Delhi, has the potential to generate opportunities worth billions of US dollars in the coming years. The global ethanol market was valued at $99.06 billion in 2022 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 5.1 per cent by 2032, surpassing $162.12 billion by 2032. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is a 3.5-5x biofuels growth potential by 2050 due to Net Zero targets, creating a significant opportunity for India. Sustainable Biomass in many varieties, with its vast indigenous yearly availability, will lead to the indigenous production of enough biofuel energy, supporting additional revenues for agricultural growth, environmental sustainability, pollution abatement, and financial security supplementing and slowly replacing fossil fuels.

Technological cooperation must be made within G20 partners for the success of the Biofuel Alliance. India proposed collaboration on biofuels within the IndoPacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to ensure energy security, affordability, and accessibility through sustainable biofuels. This IPEF was launched jointly by the US and other partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan, Australia, and seven Asian members. India also emphasized technology transfer through joint ventures in the clean energy pillar. This proposal was supported by the G20 countries and 12 global organisations, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum and others. This will help G20 nations reduce their dependence on fossil fuels; their overall imports of fossil fuels can be reduced by billions of US dollar within the next 3-5 years, helping them meet sustainable development and carbon emission reduction goals.

Biogas can generate an opportunity of 200 billion, considering the least investment required, compared to other energy generation options and easy availability of raw-materials. Bio energy/ Biogas in principle, has the potential to replace fossil fuels completely, especially to decarbonize the transport sector. This initiative will also align with India’s ambitious goal of achieving Net Zero by 2070. Bioenergy stands as a pivotal force in India’s pursuit of sustainable development, offering multifaceted benefits beyond energy production, contributing to the circular economy, and promoting an environmentally conscious lifestyle (LiFE).


In addition, it unlocks carbon credit potential and drives decarbonization efforts, making a significant contribution to achieving Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for emission reductions. This aligns with climate goals, enabling India to make tangible strides in mitigating climate change impacts globally. The government has undertaken important initiatives such as the National Bioenergy Programme, SAMARTH Scheme, and SATAT (Efficient Bioenergy technologies), among others. Augmenting Farmers’ Livelihoods: Farmers, being the backbone of societies, are benefitted by agricultural growth. Bioenergy initiatives offer farmers a pathway towards enhanced livelihoods by providing opportunities for additional income streams. Through the cultivation of biomass feedstock such as agricultural residues, energy and protein rich crops, and organic waste, farmers can diversify their revenue sources while contributing to the renewable energy sector.

Moreover, the establishment of bioenergy facilities in rural areas stimulates local employment and entrepreneurship, thereby uplifting rural communities by reducing migration to large cities and thus augmenting their standard of living. Enhancing Energy Security: Substantial and ever growing crude oil imports contribute to major dependency and cause a drain on India’s dollar resources. A paradigm shift that sees Biomass as the new crude oil is needed as Bioenergy serves as the cornerstone of fortifying India’s energy security by reducing reliance on fossil fuel imports and broadening the energy portfolio. As a locally sourced renewable resource, bioenergy mitigates vulnerabilities linked to geopolitical tensions and fluctuating global energy markets as well as the vicissitudes of the oil cartel.

Additionally, decentralized bioenergy facilities enable communities to tap into local resources, strengthening energy resilience at the grassroots level. There is a need to set up Bio Compressed Plants and world-class-sized biorefineries in almost all states in India. India needs ethanol for the E20 and E30 target. Ethanol blend to partly decarbonize diesel is also being adopted, creating a sizable additional demand. Ethanol is also the basic and main feedstock for SAF and renewable diesel via ATJ pathway. There is scope for over 50 large bio-refineries (1000-1500 KLPD standard size in the USA and EU) to reach the E30 programme and meeting diesel and SAF demand.

To reach the Government’s target of E30 by 2030, we would need 18 million tons of ethanol for blending in gasoline and more ethanol if 5 per cent blending in diesel and SAF production is adopted. The current production is around 4 million tons, leaving a wide gap. India’s gasoline consumption would reach 60 million tons/year by 2030. Biofuels alone will not replace other energy sources but will have a major role. Being highoctane and clean burning, they would cut down PM2.5 emissions and pollution in India’s major cities by making gasoline and diesel more clean burning. Over 800 biomass power projects have been installed with a combined capacity of 10,632 MW for power generation and 140 tons/day for compressed biogas production.

The country is also developing a market for bio-products like biomass pellets. Government initiatives, with a mandate for a minimum 5 per cent utilization of biomass in thermal power plants, and the STAT scheme, which promotes the use of CBG in transportation, along with amendments to the National Policy on Biofuels in 2018, contribute to this growth. The national policy on biofuels now allows a wider range of feedstock for biofuel production with immediate aims for a 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol by 2025-26.

The 2023 Indian budget proposed the establishment of 500 new wasteto-wealth plants under the Goverdhan Scheme, including 200 CBG plants. The focus is on diversifying to advance feedstock to minimize land use for price and other environmental factors. Technologies like cellulosic ethanol and biomass waste Fischer-Tropsch are being developed to expand non-food crop biofuel production. But there are challenges. G The government’s plan recognizes feedstock availability as the first challenge for ethanol-blended fuel.

There is an urgent need for second[1]generation feedstock from non-food sources, such as cellulose. Also, the maize route for ethanol production needs to be accelerated. G Bioenergy growth needs consistent government policies. G Only a few states in India, like UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, and Haryana, are major agricultural producers. In view of this, extensive infrastructure is needed for the storage, transportation, and distribution of ethanol throughout the country. G Modifying petrol pumps to use E20 at all locations throughout the country.

Bioenergy systems exemplify circular economy principles by efficiently utilizing organic waste streams like agricultural residues and forestry waste for renewable energy production, minimizing waste generation, conserving resources, mitigating pollution, and fostering sustainable production and consumption patterns. Bioenergy emerges as a transformative agent poised to reshape India’s socioeconomic landscape.

(The writer is Chair, Environment & Green Hydrogen Committee, PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Managing Director, Greenstat Hydrogen India Pvt. Ltd., and former Chairman, EAC (Industry 2), Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change. He can be reached at jpglobalconsultinggroup@gmail.com)