The advantages of newly developed high biomass sorghum and pearl millet developed by ICRISAT and Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) for use as feedstock in second generation or lignocellulosic (2G) biofuel production in India was highlighted at a recent workshop.
The advantageous traits of these dryland crops are wider adaptability, fast growth, high biomass production potential, resilience to drought, and non-compromise on food security as the grain is used for human consumption. The use of these crops in biofuel production has the potential of improving incomes of Indian farmers in the semi-arid regions.
India is a signatory to the UN Climate Change Paris Agreement (COP21) and biofuel production is one of the thrust areas identified to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The country’s ethanol production is mainly from sugarcane molasses. However, considering severe water shortages there is limited scope to increase the production of this water-intensive crop. Hence there is a need to develop newer feedstocks along with supply chain mechanisms and optimized biomass processing technologies for establishing commercial 2G biofuel plants. These plants need to have the capacity to produce sufficient ethanol to augment the blending demands of the country. The government’s current goal is to blend 5% of ethanol in gasoline across the country and increase the blending percentage to 10% in the short run and up to 20% in the next five years.
To develop an action plan to address the above issues, 70 participants representing the Government of India, industry and academia cutting across various specializations met at ICRISAT headquarters.
The main objectives of the workshop were –
- To develop a road map for meeting the Government of India’s blending targets (10% by 2017) using lignocellulosic ethanol production (the current status is 3.5 -5.0% blending).
- Creating a sustainable biomass supply chain to ensure unhindered supply of feedstock for all the proposed lignocellulosic ethanol plants to be set up by Indian public sector oil marketing companies (Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd).
Participating organizations such as ICRISAT, IIMR, Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI), and Reliance Industries have carried out significant research in biofuel feedstock production and provided critical inputs to the discussion.
ICRISAT’s work in partnership with IIMR and distilleries over the years on developing sweet sorghum value chain for first generation (1G) ethanol production was highly appreciated. The group suggested that the 2G commercial plants proposed to be set up can take the learnings from sweet sorghum improvement, crop production, supply chain management and commercialization in exclusive distilleries and in sugar mills for ethanol production. Currently, the estimated production of ethanol in India is in the range of 2.5-3.0 billion liters which is primarily used for potable alcohol, chemical industries and for ethanol blending.
It is the first time that key stakeholders met on a single platform and chalked out an action plan on 2G biofuels. The wrap-up session held at IIMR called for unified action through this platform to make 2G biofuel a successful model in the country.
The two-day workshop “Creating sustainable biomass supply chain for the proposed Lignocellulosic (2G) Ethanol projects undertaken by Oil PSUs” was held on November 15 and 16. It was organized jointly by the Working Group on Biofuels, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and ICRISAT.
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