India can replace hydrocarbon imports worth a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore through higher uptake of bio-fuels, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said today. Pradhan, along with power, coal, renewable energy and mines minister Piyush Goyal called for a push for the bio-fuel sector.
The ministers – who were speaking at a conference on bio-fuel exhibition in Pune — said farmers would benefit from the government’s plan to set up second-generation ethanol plants across the country. “The country imports Rs 6 lakh crore worth of petrochemicals. Conversion of urban and rural waste into ethanol itself will reduce our import bill by Rs 1 lakh crore. That kind of money will be used to provide relief to the farmers,” Pradhan said.
India’s three Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are currently setting up 12 second-generation ethanol plants across the country which will collect agriculture waste from farmers and convert it into bio-ethanol, increasing the farmers’ earning from the same produce and the same land. “I would like to take this opportunity to assure the industry that the oil ministry will ensure that any type of bio-fuel produced in the country will be connected to a market place and its offtake at a good price will be assured,” Pradhan added.
Speaking at the event, Goyal praised Pradhan for increasing the country’s ethanol-blending in petrol to five percent in two years as compared to two percent in 2014. “Under Prime Minister Modi and oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, ethanol was given wings as its blending grew from two percent to five percent in two years,” Goyal said.
Sandip Poundrik, Joint Secretary-Refineries at the oil ministry, who also spoke at the event, talked about the limitations with first-generation bio-ethanol and the challenges to be overcome for bio-ethanol uptake. “From 15 crore litre of bio-ethanol produced in 2012-2013, we are currently producing 111 crore litre of bio-ethanol. All of this is due to the slew of initiatives taken by the oil and power ministries in the past few years,” Poundrik said.
Poundrik assured the industry that OMCs will provide assured off-take for 15 years for bio-ethanol plants setup by private investors. He also voiced concerns about the slow pace in production of bio-diesel and suggested that used cooking oil can be a potential feedstock for its production and the government will come out with a policy around it soon.
“The demand of bio-ethanol right now is around 318 crore liter and we expect it to go up to 440 crore liter by 2022. First-generation ethanol will not be able to meet such a demand. Therefore, our focus has shifted towards 2nd and 3rd generation ethanol. The country annually produces around 120-160 million tonne of surplus bio-mass. If this feedstock is converted to bio-ethanol, that would result in over 2,500- 3,000 litre of bio-ethanol which is more than enough to meet demand,” Poundrik said.
Oil PSUs are setting up 12 second-generation ethanol bio-refineries across 11 states including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The estimated investment for these bio-refineries stands at around Rs 10,000 crore. The bio-refineries are expected to produce around 35-40 crore liter of ethanol annually, contributing towards the ethanol blending programme.