Using damaged grains to make ethanol: Oil retailers await norms

Twesh Mishra |TV Jayan | | Updated on: May 05, 2020

Commitment to EBP scheme gives sugar industry confidence to set up distilleries

To ensure that the country does not miss any opportunity to generate its own fuel and bring down import dependence, the government proposes to use surplus foodgrains for ethanol production. Public sector oil refining-cum-marketing companies are awaiting formal guidelines, which are expected any time soon.

The decision to use damaged foodgrains for making ethanol shows the government’s commitment to promoting the ethanol blended petrol (EBP) programme even when crude oil prices are down, and sends a message that the programme does not depend solely on sugarcane supply, said an industry source.

The indicative target laid down in the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 is to achieve 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol in the country by 2030. The policy also envisages use of damaged foodgrains, rotten potato, corn and sugar beet.

A senior executive from a public sector oil company said: “The guidelines will outline from where the procurement will be done, how much procurement and the pricing mechanism. The oil companies will not be directly procuring foodgrains but they will take ethanol produced from it through a tendering process.”

Using surplus rice in godowns

Last month, the National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC), under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, had decided that the surplus rice available with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) may be converted to ethanol and used for making alcohol-based hand-sanitisers and in blending for the EBP programme.

The National Policy on Biofuels also allows production of ethanol from damaged foodgrains such as wheat and broken rice, which are unfit for human consumption. It also, under Para 5.3 inter-alia , envisages that during an agriculture crop year when there is projected over-supply of foodgrains, as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the policy will allow conversion of the surplus quantities of foodgrains to ethanol, based on the approval of NBCC.

In fact, the commitment to the programme gives tremendous confidence to the sugar industry to go ahead with its plans to set up distilleries to make ethanol, said Abinash Verma, Director-General of Indian Sugar Mills Association.

Being a sensitive subject, the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry did not share the quantum of surplus foodgrains available. In fact, many Opposition party leaders criticised the Centre for making foodgrains available for fuel programme when people do not even get enough to eat.

However, in a reply to a Lok Sabha question, the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry, on March 17 said that the not-so-negligent quantity of foodgrains became rotten while being stored in godowns of FCI and Central Warehousing Corporation between 2014 and 2018.

As per the reply, the total quantity of foodgrains lost due to poor storage was around 38,616 tonnes in the five years.

Published on May 05, 2020
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