Biofuels in India

Posted by Global technology interface on January 09, 2023


For humanity, fossil fuels ushered in the industrial age. However, by the end of this century, humankind may run out of these fuels. Then it is high time for us to turn to alternative energy sources. The global push to use renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels, holds the key to the solution.

The fundamental benefit of using biofuels over traditional fossil fuels is that because they are renewable, there is little chance that the world's supply will run out. Additionally, compared to fossil fuels, most biofuels emit fewer greenhouse gases. Experts advise using a multifaceted, sustainable approach if India wants to grow its biofuel industry.

What are biofuels?

Instead of being created over millions of years like fossil fuels, biofuels are combustible substances made from biomass over relatively brief periods. The word "biofuel" is frequently used to refer to any fuel produced from organic material ( Agro Waste, microorganisms, or animal waste). Today's most popular biofuels are ethanol,  Biogas, Biodiesel, Methanol,  and Wood. Presently the focus is on ‘Advanced Biofuels’, i.e., biofuels derived from lignocellulosic (refers to plant dry matter) biomass. These are being explored as a possible replacement for conventional biofuels. Lignocellulosic biomass is not used as food and is abundant, reducing the risk posed by conventional biofuels to food security and the environment.

What is India’s history with biofuels?

Biofuels have a long history dating back to the early years of the automobile industry in the 1890s when Rudolf Diesel tested his first engine using peanut oil. Before petroleum-derived fuel became more affordable after the Second World War, biofuels were considered viable transportation fuels. However, during the oil crisis of the 1970s, interest in biofuels started to rise again due to worries about the security of their supply. Concerns about climate change were added to these worries a decade ago. 

With the implementation of the Ethanol Blending Programme in 2002, which required a 5% ethanol (E5) blend in gasoline in nine states and four union territories by January 2003, India took its first official steps toward integrating liquid biofuels into its energy industry. The Indian government reintroduced the National Biofuel Policy in 2009 after several earlier setbacks, and it set an ambitious national blending rate of 20%. However, the 2009 strategy encountered various problems because jatropha plantations' seed yields were substantially lower than expected. This, together with the high cost of plantation care and several other scaling concerns, has rendered jatropha biodiesel manufacturing economically unviable.

What is India’s current status and market potential concerning biofuels?

India's biofuel policy was most recently updated in 2018 to have 20% ethanol and 5% biodiesel blended nationwide by 2030. As all prior strategies did, the 2018 strategy emphasized using 2G technologies with agricultural and industrial waste products.

The policy directives have undergone significant revisions in the 2021–2022 amendments. Instead of 2030, the government now wants to achieve 20% ethanol. 

To meet these new goals, the government advises moving the focus of biofuel production to 1G and 2G sources. In addition to sugarcane, food grains like extra maize and rice from the Food Corporation of India can now be utilized to manufacture biofuels. Programs for loan interest subvention now cover ethanol-producing grain distilleries and sugar/molasses-based ones. This is to support the expansion of the current production capacity of 6.8 million liters, which comes from molasses-based distilleries producing 4.2 million liters and grain-based distilleries producing 2.6 million liters, to 15 million liters, which comes from molasses-based distilleries producing 7.4 million liters, by 2026.

The India biodiesel market size reached US$ 360.1 Million in 2021. Looking forward, it is expected that the Indian market will reach US$ 588.8 Million by 2027, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 8.96% during 2022-2027.

Leveraging this market potential of biofuels in India, in the context of business collaboration Global Technology Interface is a platform that acts as the Technology Displayer where products and solutions are displayed and showcased to enable interested parties to discover one another and further help in forging a working relationship for their betterment and that of the society.

Through GTI, people can know about the latest developments in cleantech, biotech, ICT, and overall technological advancements and seek knowledge and information. Not only do they access news about the latest collaborations and products invented, but also, through various content and articles shared online, communities like researchers or students can improve their learnings and strengthen their knowledge base.

This platform houses details of companies, entrepreneurs, MSMEs, start-ups, and R&D institutions from across the globe, especially in India and European Union, to showcase innovative technologies and facilitate collaborations in technology, science, research, and business on a global platform in a sustained manner.

Some of the companies working on clean technology which are hosted on this platform are enumerated below;

1. GFF Canada Ltd, is a  non-chemical bio-additive production UK-based company using  Proprietary Advanced Molecular Spacing Technology™. It is currently working at the cutting edge of development producing possibly the best chemical-free additives in the world. Their technologies enable them to achieve more, using less, and they are recognized for their ability to improve efficiency, deliver outstanding class-leading performance and enhance environmental safety. Their product FuelMax™ is the first organic-based still liquid biofuel additive that can stay liquid at -30°C and can be dissolved in water compared with other products. Fully sustainable and biodegradable.

2. New Leaf Dynamic Technologies Private Limited, an Indian company, has developed GreenCHILL, the world’s 1st stand-alone refrigeration unit powered by biomass or farm waste. GreenCHILL has many applications in Agri-sector, like cold storage, a pre-cooler, a ripening chamber, an ice maker, mushroom growing chambers, dryers, bulk milk coolers, air-conditioning, etc.

3. The Waste Transformers, a Netherlands company, transforms organic (food)waste streams (350kg/3600kg/day) into clean energy (mini-grids), recovered water, and organic fertilizer on-site in small-scale containerized anaerobic digesters. A Waste Transformer turns organic waste into clean energy (biogas or electricity and heat) on-site where organic waste is produced—no transport of waste to landfill. Every community and business that produce organic waste can run its own Waste Transformer, which is monitored 24/7 online. No technical knowledge is needed, only daily feeding with organic waste. It is a modular system adapted to the local needs and amount of waste available (350kg/day-3600kg/day). Suitable for urban and agricultural environments.

4. Gram Oorja (“Energy for Villages” in Hindi) is a social enterprise based in India that addresses grassroots challenges through distributed renewable energy solutions. Gram Oorja responds directly to a large spectrum of rural community needs – from lack of electricity for households, schools, clinics, water supply, and productive activities to traditional fuel use for cooking. Their approach integrates communities as part of solution-building, implementation, and long-term management, thus building a sustainable local ecosystem that delivers sustained impacts on people’s livelihoods and human development. 

5. Awila Anlagenbau is a 100-year-old company situated in Lastrup, Germany. They are specialized solutions providers for Bio Mass pelleting, Biogas plants, and Feed plants for poultry, cattle, and fish feed.

Biofuels have the potential to change India’s energy spend and consumption. Demand is present, but supply and production are not up to par due to a lack of feedstock estimation across India. However, several significant players exist, including Praj Industries, Biomax Fuels, Universal Biofuels, and upstarts like Aris Bioenergy. The biofuel industry is laying its foundations with sustainable fuels that can meet India's energy needs in the automotive, aviation, and maritime sectors.  

If you are a technology company in this sector, you can register on the technology platform Global Technology Interface® (GTI ®) as a tech displayer to showcase and deploy your technologies to promote the circular economy and browse through the existing opportunities and technologies to explore collaborations. Given the massive opportunity in this sector, the platform can support you with accessing new markets and leveraging opportunities in this sector.

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