Blending ethanol with petrol makes it less expensive, greener, and more efficient. When ethanol, a biofuel, is combined with petrol, it boosts energy efficiency and reduces residue or pollution.
PM Modi said on Sunday that India has met its aim of 10% ethanol blending in gasoline five months ahead of schedule. Speaking on World Environment Day at an event on the 'Save Soil Movement' in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that ethanol blending in fuel in India has now quintupled to 10%, up from 2% in 2014.
This milestone was reached five months ahead of the projected November 2022 deadline.
What exactly is ethanol blending?
The first question that most people who heard the PM speak on Sunday had was, What is ethanol blending? But first, what precisely is ethanol?
Ethanol is a type of biofuel. It is a fuel made from biological stuff, as opposed to petroleum extracted from Earth's depths. Petroleum is derived through the gradual geological process of fossilization, making it a 'fossil' fuel. The oxygen-rich ethanol, on the other hand, is produced by fermenting sugarcane molasses. It is an anhydrous ethyl alcohol, which implies it is devoid of water. It is highly flammable due to its high oxygen concentration and lack of water content.
Because it is so highly flammable, mixing it (or blending it, making the process 'Ethanol Blending' ) permits the engine to consume gasoline more thoroughly. Alternatively, make the vehicle fuel very energy-efficient with minimal residue or emissions.
When did India begin mixing ethanol?
Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee's National Democratic Alliance-1 (NDA-1) government, pilot projects on Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) were launched in 2001 under the supervision of then-oil minister Ram Naik. According to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas report, Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India 2020-25, it was inaugurated in three locations: Miraj and Manmad in Maharashtra, and Aonla in Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly region Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG).
Following the success of the pilot programmes, the Centre started the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme in January 2003 to distribute 5% ethanol-blended fuel in nine states and four Union Territories: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
In 2006, the Petroleum Ministry authorized Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to sell 5% EBP in most of the nation in accordance with Bureau of Indian Standards guidelines. Since 2019, the scheme has been extended to the entire country (excluding Andaman and Nicobar), with OMCs now selling EBP up to 10%.
According to the 'Blending roadmap,' which was produced jointly by the oil ministry and National Institution for Transforming India (Niti Ayog) and announced on World Environment Day last year, an annual plan for the progressive implementation of 'E20' (20% ethanol-blended fuel) by 2025-26 has been put out. The 'Blending roadmap' also established a 2030 aim of 5% biodiesel blend with diesel.
What does this imply for you, your wallet, the country, and the environment?
For the average commuter and their wallet, ethanol-blending makes petrol cheaper, a major relief for people who have been paying through the roof for vehicle fuel. According to the NITI Aayog study, ethanol-blended petrol "offers similar efficiency at a cheaper cost than petrol" - a crucial requirement in an era of soaring fuel prices.
In reality, respite for commuters and consumers has already arrived, since India's attainment of the 10% ethanol blending target means they will not have to pay an extra Rs 2 per liter pollution tax beginning October 1 this year. The Budget recommended an extra levy on unblended gasoline beginning in October to encourage the use of cleaner fuel as part of the country's energy transition and climate action strategy.
Once the E20 objective is met, the country's vehicle fuel import cost might be reduced by United States Dollar (USD) 4 billion (about Rs 31,000 crore) each year. Looking inward, it will assist farmers in generating more money if they produce crops that have the potential to yield ethanol.
To increase availability, the government has now permitted ethanol production from cereals and farm leftovers in addition to sugarcane.
According to the NITI Aayog paper, "availability of large arable land, rising production of food grains and sugarcane resulting in surpluses, availability of technology to produce ethanol from plant-based sources, and feasibility of making vehicles compliant with ethanol blended petrol make E20 not only a national imperative, but also an important strategic requirement."
Blending ethanol with gasoline and diesel improves their combustibility, efficiency, and decreases vehicular emissions, lowering pollution. With particulate matter levels rising with each season and year, damaging even fetuses, this might allow us to breathe easier, literally.
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