Issues with Ethanol Blending Programme

Compare Ethanol with Gasoline. Why Ethanol is mixed in Gasoline? What are issues with India’s Ethanol Blending Programme?

Ethanol has smaller energy density than gasoline. This means that it takes more fuel by volume and mass to produce the same amount of work. This is the major reason why we don’t use 100% Ethanol and use only a blend of Ethanol.

  • The major advantage of Ethanol is that it has a higher octane rating than ethanol-free gasoline.
  • The Ethanol increases engine’s compression ratio for increased thermal efficiency .
  • Further, at higher altitude locations, a few countries a a mandatory mix of gasoline and ethanol to reduce atmospheric pollution emissions.
  • Ethanol fuel is the most common biofuel worldwide, particularly in Brazil, because of its Sugar Industry.

India and Ethanol blending

The government had decided two years ago to implement the ethanol blending programme (EBP) up to a limit of 10%. But only 5% of ethanol is being blended in the EBP currently under implementation in 13 states and three Union territories out of the notified 20 states and four UTs.

  • The Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme earlier launched by the Government could not sustain owing to non-availability of ethanol in required quantity and other state specific issues.
  • Later, to give fillip to the programme, Government gave fresh relook and decided on 16.8.2010 to implement the EBP programme to the extent of the ethanol made available by the domestic ethanol producers at the ex-factory declared price decided by the Government.
  • Government had planned to raise the level of ethanol blending in petrol to 10% from the current 5%. In 2010, the Government had fixed provisional price of ethanol at Rs. 27 per litre.
  • The programme initially could not succeed due to dearth of supply and later was re-launched in November, 2010 after fresh tenders issued by the OMCs for sourcing ethanol.

However, still, the government’s plan to raise the level of ethanol blending in petrol to 10% from the current 5% may fail to take off because of poor supplies from sugar companies. Ethanol supplies have been insufficient even for the current 5% level. In fact, only half the total contracted quantity could be procured up to July.

In India, ethanol is almost entirely produced from cane molasses. Hence, ethanol production in India is heavily dependent on the production of sugar and sugarcane, which fluctuates due to the cyclic nature of the crop. The government, under the Sugar Development Fund Rules 1983, provides soft loans, up to 40% of the project cost, to sugar mills for setting up ethanol projects to improve their viability via value addition to their by-product, molasses.