The Indian government is planning to boost the use of biofuels in transport fuels after recognising the country’s major contribution to air pollution.
Owing to this, a proposal by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set a target of 20% blending of diesel and petrol with biodiesel and ethanol by 2017.
Blending targets for bioethanol have been in effect since 2008, but this is the first time recommendations for biodiesel use have been made.
The proposition aims to encourage farmers and landless workers to plant unedible oil seeds to increase the production of biodiesel and bioethanol.
Public and private farmers will be supported by the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism, which is a form of market intervention by India’s government to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
Government’s major objectives with the MSP are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution. In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price, owing to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
The Indian government is aiming to solve several environmental, agricultural and economic challenges the country faces.
In addition to reducing air pollution, there are plans to increase farmer employment, especially for those with little financial means.
The support for bioethanol – which is an alcohol made by fermentation, mostly from carbohydrates produced in sugar or starch crops, such as corn, sugar cane or sweet sorghum – aims to aid India’s struggling sugar industry.
To make the adoption of biodiesel and bioethanol faster, government is also planning to enhance incentives for fuel processing and production.
The Motors Vehicles Act already allows for the “conversion of an existing engine of a vehicle to use biofuels”.
Generally a blend of 5% to 20% biodiesel is used in India (B5 to B20). The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has taken up research and development (R&D) work to establish the parameters of the production of transesterified Jatropha vegetable oil and use of biodiesel in its R&D centre at Faridabad. Research is carried out at the Kumaraguru College of Technology for marginally altering the engine parameters to suit the Indian Jatropha seeds and to minimise the cost of transesterification.
Initially, 5% of the biodiesel was blended with high-speed diesel and later increased to 20%. The railway industry and IOC have successfully used 10% blended biodiesel fuel in trains running between Amritsar and New Delhi in the month of February 2003. At the Kumaraguru College of Technology, an auto rickshaw was run on pure biodiesel (B100) prepared from Jatropha oil.
Engine manufacturers will be required to make the necessary changes to engines to ensure compatibility with biofuels.