“Diversification of agriculture towards energy and power sector is the need of the hour, Farmers need to become Power Suppliers, besides being Annadatha”
“Ethanol, methanol, bioethanol, bio-CNG, biodiesel, bio-LNG, green hydrogen and electric is where the future lies”
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has given a clarion call to the sugar factories to make a shift to conversion of sugar into ethanol, in line with the realities of changing times and the needs of the nation. The Minister issued a warning to leaders of sugar and allied industries that if sugar production goes ahead as it does now, it will be harmful for the industry in times to come. Reminding them that as a country, we are rice-surplus, corn-surplus and sugar-surplus, Gadkari said that what is good for our future is to reduce production of sugar and increase production of ethanol.
The Minister was addressing the Sugar & Ethanol India Conference (SEIC) 2022 in Mumbai on March 20. The conclave, organized by ChiniMandi, news and information portal for the sugar and allied industries, sought to bring together leading domestic & global industry experts to discuss the top challenges and risk response strategies in domestic and global sugar trade and the way forward to building a more innovative and sustainable Sugar & Ethanol sector in India.
The Superior Economics of Ethanol
The Minister explained how the economics of ethanol is superior to that of vehicles run by diesel or petrol. “We have issued advisory on flex engines; Toyota, Hundai and Suzuki have assured me that they will bring flex engines within six months. Recently, we launched pilot car run by green hydrogen. Toyota Chairman informed me that their car is flex – either 100% petrol or 100% ethanol and that Toyota cars of coming days will be run on hybrid electricity, which will generate 40% electricity and run 60% of the distance using 100% ethanol. This economics will be highly advantageous in comparison to petrol.”
The Minister informed that Govt. of India has decided to open biofuel outlets for citizens to fill ethanol and that cars, scooters, motor cycles and rickshaws can be available on flex engine. “Prime Minister has inaugurated three ethanol pumps in Pune; however, no one has come so far to fill ethanol. However, Bajaj, TVS and Hero have launched motor cycles driven by flex engine; scooters and motor cycles are available on flex engines. They are ready to come up with auto rickshaws as well.”
The Minister exhorted all sugar factories who manufacture ethanol to open ethanol pumps in their factories and other areas. “This can bring in 100% ethanol-run scooters, auto rickshaws and cars and thus increase ethanol consumption, reduce pollution, bring down imports and also provide jobs to people in villages.”
“There will definitely be a big enough market for Ethanol”
The Minister assured that no one needs to be concerned whether there would be a big enough market for ethanol. “Ethanol is a green and clean fuel; we are producing 465 crore litres of ethanol at present. However, when E-20 programme gets completed, our requirement will become around 1,500 crore litres. Moreover, in coming five years, when flex engines get ready, ethanol requirement will become 4,000 crore litres.” Hence, if you do not convert to ethanol and keep producing sugar, the factory will become loss-making, cautioned the Minister. A viable alternative is to produce syrup from sugarcane juice and produce ethanol from that as well, he added.
The Minister said that every factory should go into B molasses. “India has promised that we will stop sugar export subsidy after December 2023. Hence, every factory should go in to B molasses. Only if we discourage sugar production will we be able to get reasonable price for sugar. The government had reserved 245 crore litres for B molasses; however, only 55 crore litres or 22% has been supplied, which indicates a significant gap. Hence, this is a safe way by which sugar factories can also be saved and our economics will also be favourable due to ethanol.” He added that sea-heavy molasses should be discouraged and that the industry should think of producing ethanol from broken rice as well.
Using flex engines in road construction equipment is another way to promote ethanol, the Minister informed. “There has been an 80% rise in manufacturing of road construction equipment machinery; I have told them to stop using diesel engines and convert to flex engines, so that ethanol use can be promoted.” The Minister added that biodegradable plastic too has been made from ethanol by Brazil, something which can be replicated in India as well.
Ethanol to be used more in Aviation Sector
The Minister said that the government is thinking of ways to increase use of ethanol in aviation sector and in the Indian Air Force. “I am also exploring how to use ethanol in aviation industry. Two years ago, fighter jets which participated in Republic Day Parade had used 100% bio-ethanol. I am in discussion with Air Force Chief and Defence Ministry officials; we are thinking on how to increase use of ethanol in aviation and Indian Air Force.” We can also consider using ethanol in four lakh telecom mobile towers, the Minister added.
Ethanol: An import-substituting, cost-effective, pollution-free and indigenous solution
The Minister emphasized that there is no remedy for the sugar industry in India other than to reduce sugar consumption and increasing conversion of sugar to ethanol. We have to progress towards this at a fast pace, he said.
We need to move towards green revolution, for which we need to increase production of ethanol, said the Minister. “Total petroleum imports in our country is at present Rs. 8 lakh crore, which is expected to become Rs. 25 lakh crore in next 5 years. Now, importing Rs. 25 lakh crore of petroleum products will create an economic difficulty. Moreover, new problems will arise due to influx of fossil fuels at such a high magnitude.” The Minister hence pitched for use of ethanol and green fuels, citing the need to adopt import-substituting, cost-effective, pollution-free and indigenous solutions.
II. India needs to become an Energy Exporting Nation, Farmers should become Power Suppliers
The Minister underlined in no uncertain terms the urgent need for a shift to green fuels and for agriculture to diversify into energy and power sector. “Ethanol, methanol, bioethanol, bio-CNG, biodiesel, bio-LNG, green hydrogen and electric is where the future lies. From being an energy-importing nation, we need to become an energy-exporting nation. We need to make farmers power suppliers, not just grain suppliers; since grain is in surplus and power is in shortage. Diversification of agriculture towards energy and power sector is the need of the hour.” If sugar factories too take this seriously, this transformation will happen fast, said the Minister.
The Minister said that farmers have to plan their production, considering the forces in the global economy. All of us have to determine our policies in view of this. “Conversion of knowledge into wealth is the future of the country. It is the vision of appropriate leadership which can convert waste into wealth; hence using biotechnology we need to generate biomass and transform into biofuel – whether it be bio-CNG, bio-LNG or bioethanol. This is necessary for reducing sound, air and water pollution.” Conversion of Mathura’s sludge into water is an example of this, the Minister added.
The Minister highlighted the importance and increasing adoption of electric cars and their role in reducing imports. “Electric cars are being introduced to such an extent that I have declared that in one to one and half years, electric cars will be available at same price as that for petrol-driven cars.”
III. “LNG is the future fuel for the country”
The Minister stated that LNG is the future fuel for the sector and for the country. “The economics of LNG is so good. It is very easy to convert biomass into bio-CNG and bio-LNG. We have brought a scheme to supply CNG through pipelines, CNG pumps are being opened in all places, LNG is also becoming available; so, we are progressing towards a gas economy. Hence the government’s priority is on CNG and LNG instead of petrol and diesel. In coming times, using biomass for biomass and bio-CNG will be very productive.”
Bioethanol can be made from bamboo as well, the Minister said. “In coming days, using bamboo from wasteland is an opportunity. This can be used in the form of white coal; this will also help bring down coal imports.”
The industry should also think of green hydrogen, noted the Minister. “The day is not far when green hydrogen will be available. Methane can be produced from organic waste separated from municipal waste. Once carbon dioxide is separated from this, green hydrogen, bio-LNG and bio-CNG can also be produced.”
Green hydrogen can be produced from sewage water as well, noted the Minister. “Sewage water is easily available in municipal towns and corporations. Electrolysers have been developed whereby sewage water can be used to produce green hydrogen.”