Discussions on propelling India towards biofuel sees calls for more R&D
ICRISAT’s efforts in feedstocks development appreciated on World Biofuel Day
India has made good progress in blending bioethanol with gasoline (petrol) and biodiesel with diesel, said Dr Ashok Kumar Are, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, while pointing out the need for faster establishment of 2G biofuel plants and stepping up R&D to improve biofuel feedstocks for India to be able to meet its future targets.
Dr Kumar was speaking during a webinar themed “Biofuels towards Atmanirbhar Bharat” (biofuels towards a self-reliant India) on the occasion of World Biofuel Day on August 10. The webinar was organized by India’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) to raise awareness of the importance of non-fossil fuels as alternatives to conventional fuels.
“India’s progress made in blending of bioethanol in gasoline (5.12%) and biodiesel in diesel (0.1%) has been good. There is still a long way to go in meeting the targets of 20% blending of ethanol in gasoline and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel by 2030 as envisaged by the National Policy on Biofuels 2018,” said Dr Kumar, who is also ICRISAT’s Product Placement Lead–Asia.
Dr Kumar discussed feedstock for biofuels and highlighted ICRISAT’s ‘BioPower’ strategy to improve sorghum cultivars amenable for sugar based or first generation (1G) biofuels. ICRISAT worked with partners to develop management practices for maximizing feedstocks production and commercializing them for ethanol production by partnering with ethanol industries and sugar mills. It pioneered the sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development and established the commercial feasibility and environmental sustainability by using this feedstock for biofuel production.
Currently, sweet sorghum is extensively tested for adoption in multiple ecologies in Maharashtra by the Paani Foundation that aims to identify most suitable locations and best practices for commercialization. Initial results indicate higher fresh stalk yields (45 tons/ha) and higher juice brix (17%) that favours 1G biofuel production on commercial scale. Further, improved sweet sorghum genotypes developed by ICRISAT showed 22% Brix content (a measure of sugar) which can give up to 55 lit of ethanol per ton of stalk compared to 35-40 L from earlier genotypes.
ICRISAT also developed high biomass sorghum and pearl millet for ligno-cellulosic biomass based (2G) biofuel production, Dr Kumar said during the webinar. The high biomass sorghum RCIVSH 28 grown in farmers’ fields at Golaghat in Assam showed encouraging results with 16 tons of dry biomass production. This can serve as an alternative to use of bamboo as feedstock in lignocellulosic biofuel production 2G biofuel plants. Further, the dry biomass from RCIVSH 28 has shown it can yield by 50% higher biogas under anaerobic digestion compared to same volume of paddy straw.
The webinar also had discussions on financing and India’s experience of setting biofuel projects and biofuel implementation in India. Mr Tarun Kapoor, Secretary, MoPNG; Sunil Kumar, Joint Secretary, MoPNG; Dr YB Ramakrishna, Member, Taskforce on Biofuels, MoPNG; Dr Anjan Ray, Director, CSIR – Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun and Dr Narendra Mohan, Director, National Sugar Institute, Kanpur were part of the deliberation.
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