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What is Ethanol Blending and Why it is Important 

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In the last decade, more and more countries have started blending Ethanol with petrol. They are doing it to lower their carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gases. 

Ethanol plays an important role in fighting climate change and global warming. Countries around the world want to increase the use of ethanol to reduce their carbon emissions. 

In the next few decades, ethanol is going to play an important in India’s economy. 

But what is ethanol? How it is extracted? And how it is blended with Petrol? Are there any advantages or disadvantages of ethanol blending? We will try to answer these questions in the following article. 

What is Ethanol? 

Ethanol is also called ethyl alcohol and the chemical formula is C2H5OH. 

Ethanol is a biofuel produced by processing organic matter like sugarcane, rice husk, maize, and other cereals.

Most of the ethanol comes from processing sugar from sugarcane.  

You can divide ethanol into two categories – First generation and Second generation ethanol. 

First-generation ethanol is produced from crops directly in the fields such as sugarcane, maize, sugar beet, rapeseed, etc.

Second-generation ethanol is produced from sources other than molasses such as rice straw, wheat straw, corn cobs, bamboo, etc. Second-generation ethanol is produced from residual and waste products. 

The government of India is providing viability gap funding to increase the second-generation ethanol capacity and draw investment to the industry.  

What is Ethanol Blending? 

Now we can understand what ethanol blending is. 

To put it simply ethanol blending means “blending ethanol with petrol to burn less fossil fuel while running vehicles”. 

Ethanol can be mixed with fuel like petrol in different quantities to help reduce vehicular carbon emissions. 

The government of India has launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Program to mix ethanol with petrol to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. 

Currently, 10% of the petrol in your vehicle is ethanol. The E10 target achievement means that the petrol we use has 10% ethanol mixed in it. 

By end of 2025, all vehicles in India will be E20 means 20% petrol mixed with ethanol. 

Why Ethanol Blending is Important? 

Ethanol blending is very important for a country like India. There are three big reasons for ethanol blending in India. 

India is the third largest importer of crude oil. India’s net import of petroleum last year was well over $55 billion. A successful ethanol blending program can save India over $5 billion per annum in import bills. 

This saves a lot of foreign exchange. 

Moreover, the increased demand for ethanol output will increase the farmer’s income also. 

The third and most obvious reason is ethanol is less polluting than other fuels. 

The government has advanced the 20% ethanol blending target by five years to 2025. 

Ethanol Blending In India 

Prime Minister Modi said ethanol has become one of the major priorities of 21st-century India. 

In the world environment day speech, Modi said till 2014 an average of only 1.5% ethanol could be blended in India but that proportion has now reached 8.5%. 

In 2013-14 only 38 crore liters of ethanol were purchased however in 2021 that figure stands at more than 320 crore liters. 

Right now the majority of ethanol production units are in just 4 to 5 states where sugar production is high. But in coming years food grain-based state-of-the-art distilleries will be set up across India.   

Ethanol Blending In Other Countries 

What is the situation in other countries?

Frequent fluctuation in crude prices and their impact on the environment is forcing countries to look for other alternatives like ethanol. 

According to the NITI Aayog paper said “alternative fuels specific to geographies can address these issues”. 

The global production of ethanol stood at 110 billion liters in 2019 with an average yearly growth of 4% in the last decade. 

The US and Brazil account for 84% of the global ethanol production followed by the European Union, China, India, and Canada. 

Brazil’s ethanol mix is going to be 27.5% from 18%. European Union’s target is 10% for transportation fuel. 

Advantages of Ethanol Blending 

We have already discussed the importance of ethanol blending. Three main advantages are

  • Environmental – Reduce greenhouse gases equivalent to about 3 lakhs tones of carbon dioxide per annum. 
  • Economical – It will save at least $4.5 billion per annum in import bills for petrol prices and save a lot in foreign exchange.
  • High Income – It helps farmers to increase their agricultural output and generate higher income.   

Disadvantages of Ethanol Blending 

There is also a darker side to ethanol blending. Here are some 

  • Ethanol reduces carbon dioxide considerably however it doesn’t reduce the emission of one key pollutant named nitrous oxide. 
  • To grow generation 1 ethanol sugarcane is required. And sugarcane crop requires a lot of water to grow. One ton of sugarcane can effectively produce 70 liters of ethanol which requires 2860 liters of water. 
  • There could be a negative effect on food and fodder because of the diversion of key resources for ethanol production. 
  • The land needed for sugarcane production can create food insecurity in the country and also increase food prices. 

It is quite clear ethanol has advantages as well as some disadvantages. For a country like India Ethanol blending is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save a lot of foreign exchange. 

India can become a global leader in ethanol production in the coming years. 

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