India's cabinet to soon examine advanced biofuels strategy

8 Mar 2018 | John McGarrity

India’s cabinet will soon examine a draft proposal for the country’s new biofuels policy ahead of a final launch later this year, the country’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan told a joint conference with the EU on Tuesday.  

Non-conventional biofuels, also known as second generation biofuels, are based on crop residue, industrial waste, municipal solid waste or waste gases and are being considered as part of India’s $15 billion waste-to-energy programme, Pradhan told the EU-India Conference on Advanced Bio-fuels in Delhi, according to a report in India’s Economic Times.

“In a scenario where more than 95% of our transportation fuel is being met with fossil fuels and 80% of our crude requirement is met through imports, it is imperative to explore alternate, renewable energy sources and create a favourable environment for their utilization,” Pradhan was reported to have said.

India is planning second-generation ethanol production capacity of 1 billion litres per year that could be achieved within a budget of Rs 5,000 crore (€620 million), according to the oil minister. 

According to the Economic Times report, the EU’s Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski told the conference that the European Investment Bank has already provided loans and opened credit lines worth more than €2 billion to support energy and climate-related projects in India.

Pradhan said oil marketing companies have contracted 1.250 billion litres of ethanol in 2017-18 that will raise the ethanol blending percentage in petrol to 4% from 2.1% earlier.

Oil firms procured 44 million litres of biodiesel in 2017-2018 compared with 11 million litres in 2015-2016, he added.

Last November, India’s oil ministry launched a draft of the country’s New National Policy on biofuels and scheme to attract funding for 2G ethanol biorefineries.

Import cuts

India’s biofuels policies aim to increase output of bioethanol based on ligno-cellulosic biomass, instead of the traditional methods based on the use of molasses in ethanol production, so that the country’s Ethanol Blending Programme can meet its target of 20% ethanol blending in petrol by 2030.

India also has a target to reduce energy imports by 10% by 2022 could provide producers of advanced biofuels with an offtake guarantee.

“That, by itself, will be a big incentive,” Pradhan said.  

Closer co-operation

In a joint statement, the EU and India listed eight environmental commodities and technologies in which they are seeking to co-operate more closely, including advanced biofuels.

It is understood that India is not interested in producing biofuels for export to the EU, and will instead use these renewable fuels for domestic energy security.

As a result, EU companies will have the opportunity to export their technologies, with some new deals expected to augment established trading relationships.