Biofuels have garnered global attention in recent times. What are biofuels? Why they are important? Know more here.
Biofuels are of strategic importance in India and are aligned well with the initiatives of the Government.
A National Policy on biofuels was made by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009.
Learn more about biofuels.
Why in the news?
The government has authorized the direct sale of biodiesel (B100) to all consumers to blend it with high-speed diesel within the bounds of the norms established by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
What are Biofuels?
Any hydrocarbon fuel that is produced from an organic matter in a short period is considered a biofuel.
Biofuels are of different types.
a. Solid: Wood, dried plant material, and manure
b. Liquid: Bioethanol and Biodiesel
c. Gaseous: Biogas
These can be used in place of or in addition to diesel, gasoline, or other fossil fuels for permanent, portable, and other purposes, as well as for transportation. They can also be utilized to produce power and heat.
Rising oil prices, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and interest in obtaining fuel from crops for the benefit of farmers are some of the key drivers of the switch to biofuels.
Categories of Biofuels
1. First Generation biofuels
- These are produced using traditional technologies from food sources including sugar, starch, vegetable oil, or animal fats.
- Bio-alcohols, biodiesel, vegetable oil, bio-ethers, and biogas are examples of common first-generation biofuels.
- Although the conversion process is simple, using food sources to produce biofuels upsets the food system, driving up food costs and contributing to hunger.
2. Second Generation biofuels
- These are made from non-food crops or by-products of food crops that are considered wastes since they cannot be eaten, such as fruit peels, husks, stems, and wood chips.
- Such fuels are created through thermochemical reactions or biochemical conversion processes. Examples include biodiesel and cellulose ethanol.
- Although these fuels have no impact on the food economy, they are difficult to produce.
- Additionally, it is claimed that when compared to first-generation biofuels, these biofuels release fewer greenhouse emissions.
3. Third Generation biofuels
- These are produced from micro-organisms like algae. Example:- Butanol.
- Algae can be cultivated on land and in water that is not suited for food production, which relieves pressure on already-depleted water supplies.
- One disadvantage is that fertilizers used in the production of such crops lead to environmental pollution.
4. Fourth Generation Biofuels
- Crops that have been genetically modified to absorb large amounts of carbon are cultivated and harvested as biomass in the creation of these fuels.
- The crops are then converted into fuel using second-generation techniques.
- Pre-combustion of the fuel occurs, and carbon is captured. The carbon is then geo-sequestered, which refers to the storage of the carbon in coal seams that cannot be mined or in exhausted oil or gas fields.
- Some of these fuels are considered carbon-negative as their production pulls out carbon from the environment.
Some popular biofuel Crops
2. Sugar beet
Major Types of Biofuels
- It is derived from corn and sugarcane using a fermentation process.
- About two-thirds of the energy in one liter of gasoline can be found in one liter of ethanol.
- It enhances fuel combustion and reduces carbon monoxide and sulphur oxide emissions when combined with gasoline.
- Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) have an internal combustion engine and are capable of operating on gasoline and any blend of gasoline and ethanol. To know more click here.
- It is derived from vegetable oils like soybean oil or palm oil, vegetable waste oils and animal fats by a biochemical process called “Transesterification.”
- It produces very little or no amount of harmful gases as compared to diesel.
- It can be used as an alternative to conventional diesel fuel.
- It is created by the anaerobic breakdown of organic materials, such as sewage from people and animals.
- Methane and carbon dioxide make up the majority of biogas, while it also contains minor amounts of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide. Biogas is frequently utilized for heating, electricity generation, and transportation.
- It is produced in the same way as bioethanol i.e. through the fermentation of starch.
- Butanol has the highest energy content of all the gasoline substitutes. It can be used to cut emissions from diesel.
- It serves as a solvent in the textile industry and is also used as a base in perfumes.
- Biohydrogen, like biogas, can be produced using several processes such as pyrolysis, gasification, or biological fermentation.
- It can be the perfect alternative to fossil fuels.
Advantages of Biofuels
- Availability: biofuels are produced from biomass and thus are renewable.
- Source material: Biofuels can be produced from a variety of materials, such as crop waste, manure, and other by-products, unlike oil, which is a finite resource that originates from a restricted number of specific elements.
- Environment Pollution: Although they don’t emit as much carbon as fossil fuels, fertilizers used to cultivate biofuels do produce greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, biofuels can aid in the management of municipal solid waste by allowing garbage to be turned into fuel.
- Security: Local production of biofuels reduces the country’s reliance on imported energy. Countries can preserve the integrity of their energy resources and keep them secure from outside influences by limiting their reliance on foreign fuel sources.
- Economic stimulation: Due to the local production of biofuels, biofuel manufacturing facilities can hire hundreds or thousands of people, resulting in the creation of new jobs in rural areas.
- Biofuel production will also increase the demand for suitable biofuel crops, providing economic stimulation to the agriculture industry.
Disadvantages of Biofuels
- Efficiency: Fossil Fuels produce more energy than some biofuels. E.g. 1 gallon of ethanol produces less energy as compared to 1 gallon of gasoline (a fossil fuel).
- Cost: Fossil fuel extraction from the earth is a challenging and expensive operation, which results in high expenses. The land is needed for the production of biofuels, which has an impact on both the price of biofuels and the price of food crops. Additionally, even while farmers can benefit financially from planting transgenic biofuel crops, too many of these crops have the potential to destroy biodiversity.
- Food shortages: There is a concern that using valuable cropland to grow fuel crops could have an impact on the cost of food and could lead to food shortages.
- Water use: Massive quantities of water are required for proper irrigation of biofuel crops as well as to manufacture the fuel, which could strain local and regional water resources.
National and International Initiatives
International Initiatives on Sustainable Biofuels
Production of sustainable biofuels is required to reduce their impact on the environment and economy.
1. Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)
- It is an international initiative that brings together parties with an interest in the sustainability of biofuel production and distribution, including farmers, businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, and scientists.
- It introduced the “RSB Certification System,” a set of comprehensive sustainability standards, in April 2011. Producers of biofuels that adhere to these standards can demonstrate to consumers and government officials that their product was produced without endangering the environment or violating human rights.
2. Sustainable Biofuels Consensus
- It is an international initiative that calls upon governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders to take decisive action to ensure the sustainable trade, production, and use of biofuels.
- It is an international not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 2008 to promote sustainable sugar cane.
- Its stated aim is to reduce the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane production while recognizing the need for economic viability.
- It does that through setting sustainability standards and certifying sugar cane products including ethanol, sugar, and molasses.
1. Initiatives by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology
- The department successfully developed 2G Ethanol and transferred the technology to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
- Developed Indigenous Cellulolytic Enzyme for the production of biofuels.
- Demonstrated micro algae-based sewage treatment technology.
- Through multilateral initiatives like Mission Innovation and Bio Future Platform, it has expanded global cooperation to speed up innovation in sustainable biofuel.
- It is a training & encouragement for young researchers in the field of Bioenergy through Fellowships/Awards.
2. The 2019 Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana
- The program’s goals are to foster an environment for the development of business ventures and to advance R&D in the 2G ethanol market.
3. Ethanol blending
- The 2018 Biofuel Policy has the objective of reaching 20% ethanol-blending and 5% biodiesel-blending by the year 2030.
- The Government has reduced GST on ethanol for blending in fuel from 18% to 5%.
- The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas is making all efforts to increase the ethanol supply for petrol.
4. GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) DHAN scheme, 2018
- It focuses on managing and turning solid farm waste, like as animal dung, into compost, biogas, and bio-CNG, which helps keep villages clean and boosts the income of rural people.
- It was launched under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).
5. Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO):
- RUCO launched by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) aims for an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.
6. National Policy on Biofuels, 2018
- To enable the extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category, the Policy divides biofuels into “Basic Biofuels” such as First Generation (1G) ethanol and biodiesel, and “Advanced Biofuels” such as Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG, etc.
- By allowing the use of sugarcane juice, sugar-containing materials like sugar beet, and sweet sorghum, starch-containing materials like corn, and cassava, and damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, and rotten potatoes, unfit for human consumption, it broadens the range of raw materials available for the production of ethanol.
- The Policy allows the use of surplus food grains for the production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
- The Policy, which places a focus on advanced biofuels, suggests a viability gap finance plan for 2G ethanol bio refineries of Rs. 5000 crores in 6 years, in addition to increased tax incentives, and higher purchasing prices as compared to 1G biofuels.
- The Policy promotes the establishment of supply chain mechanisms for the manufacture of biodiesel from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oil, and fast-growing plants.
- Roles and responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments with respect to biofuels have also been captured in the Policy.
Also read: India-US Strategic Clean Energy Partnership
- Promotion of the use of biofuels in transportation in countries like India will help in reducing the crude import bill.
- Biofuels can help in rural and agricultural development in the form of new cash crops.
- Use of wastelands and municipal wastes produced in cities should be ensured in efforts to produce sustainable biofuels.
- A properly designed and implemented biofuel solution can provide both food and energy.
- It is possible to implement a community-based biodiesel distribution program that boosts local economies on all fronts, from the farmers who provide the feedstock to the neighborhood companies that produce and supply the fuel to consumers.
Previous Year UPSC Questions from the topic
Q. According to India’s National Policy on Biofuels, which of the following can be used as raw materials for the production of biofuels? (2020)
- Damaged wheat grains
- Groundnut seeds
- Horse gram
- Rotten potatoes
- Sugar beet
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1, 2, 5 and 6 only
(b) 1, 3, 4 and 6 only
(c) 2, 3, 4 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
Article written by: Remya