National Policy on Biofuel (2018) was recently approved by the Cabinet. Biofuels have caught everyone’s attention globally in the last decade or so and it is important to keep up with the pace of developments with respect to biofuels. In India it is of greater strategic importance because it is in sync with its target of employment generation, waste to wealth creation, doubling of farmer’s income, import Reduction, etc.
Main features of this policy are:
• The Policy expands the bracket of variety of raw materials which can be used for production of ethanol. Till now only ethanol produced from sugarcane was allowed. The policy now includes damaged food grains( like wheat, broken rice, rotten potatoes etc, which are unfit for human consumption), Sweet Sorghum, Cassava, Corn, Sugar Beet etc
• According to this Policy, biofuels will be categorised into 3 ‘Basic Biofuels’. (i)First Generation (1G) bio-ethanol & bio-diesel and Advanced Biofuels. (ii) Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels (iii) Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. This categorisation is done so that appropriate financial and fiscal incentives can be provided.
• With the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee the policy allows use of Surplus food grains for production of ethanol.
• The Policy proposes a “viability gap funding scheme” for 2G ethanol Bio refineries. This includes Rs.5000 crore in 6 years for generation of Advanced Biofuels. Additional tax incentives and higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels will be provided for 2G ethanol generation.
• Supply chain mechanisms will also be set up, which comes from biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oil and short gestation crops.
• To synergise efforts, roles and responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments with respect to biofuels have been detailed in the policy.
Importance of National Policy on Biofuel
• India’s import dependency for oil will decrease because of the indigenous presence of feedstock and other sources that are used to produce biodiesel. If mixed with petrol it can pull down oil imports by Rs 4,000 crore approximately every year.
• This will also lead to a cleaner environment which is of high priority right now globally. Around 20,000 ton of CO2 emissions will be reduced if one crore litre of bio ethanol is used. There will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions when agricultural residues/wastes are converted to biofuels rather than burning them out. Biodiesel emits less amount of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfates, unburned hydrocarbons, and carcinogenic compounds as compared to petro diesel.
• Interestingly, the Carbon dioxide produced from biodiesel combustion does not add to the new emissions of CO2 because it is already part of the carbon cycle. Idle stating noise of vehicles using biodiesel is very low. Also, Cetane number of Biodiesel is over 100. Cetane number is used to measure the quality of the fuel’s ignition, so higher the number the better.
• Agricultural residues/wastes which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol by adopting 2G technologies and if a market is developed it can fetch a very good price.
• As Oil Marketing Companies are in the process of setting up twelve 2G bio refineries ,this will lead to overall infrastructural investment in the rural areas which in turn will lead to rural development. The bio refineries will generate jobs in Village Level Entrepreneurs, Supply Chain Management and Plant Operations.
• Used cooking oil is a potential feedstock for production of biodiesel so its use will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry. Used cooking oil is used in food industries which lead to serious diseases like heart blockage etc.
National Policy on Biofuel Necessary for Environment Conservation and Combat Pollution
Biodiesel is designed keeping in mind complete compatibility with petro-diesel and it can be blended in any given ratio. No engine modification is needed as it easily blends with the fuel and provides brilliant lubricity to the fuel injection system. It is also cost effective.
Worldwide energy security is becoming a hot topic right now. Right now almost every country in the world depends on imports of various forms of fossil fuel energy. A country’s economy needs a constant and steady supply of affordable energy. Hence Biodiesel is a very good option as it can improve energy security significantly. It is considered to be less toxic and its biodegradability rate is very fast in both water and soil.
In India, Rajasthan has become the first State to implement the National Policy on Biofuel launched by the Government in May 2018. The desert State has decided to put emphasis on increase in production of oilseeds and establish a Centre for Excellence in Udaipur to encourage research in the fields of energy resources and alternative fuels. The State Rural Livelihood Development Council has decided to encourage women self help groups to explore the scope for additional income through the supply of biodiesel. Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan have recently said that the Central Government plans to come up with a Biofuel Policy specifically for the Aviation sector.
National Policy on Biofuel Needed for Energy Security and Replacing Depleting Fossil Fuels
We are more comfortable using energy from fossil fuels in our day to day life. But, the fast depletion of fossil fuel reservoirs is a cause of concern for all of us. So there is a need to replicate the fuel from available renewable resources. Searching of alternatives is already in process and biodiesel is a good option. We can use this in existing systems like automobiles, industries etc, without even altering the basic components. Hence, even researchers and planners are showing interest in biodiesels.
In both Indian and global context, new generation energy sources are very much important. We need to fully optimize available renewable energy sources so that they give maximum returns. The National Policy on Biofuel is a big step towards this direction.