BFN & Biotech Annecto Event Popup

India, is currently the fourth largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, the fifth largest energy consumer and the second most populous country in the world.

Naturally, there is an increase in energy demand every year. India will need to import huge amounts of energy from other countries in order to meet its energy demands. Although India’s per capita emissions are less than half the world’s average, in 2010, its transport sector accounted for 13 percent of the country’s energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. Hence, India needs to find sustainable energy generation sources to meet its demands thereby providing a good market for biofuels.

Biofuels in India – current scenario

India’s biofuel production accounted for only 1 percent of global production in 2012. Bio-ethanol and bio-diesel are the two biofuels that are commercially produced. Currently, first generation feedstocks such as sugarcane, maize, sugarbeet and cassava are commonly exploited for bio-ethanol along with palm oil, jatropha oil and other edible oils from various oilseed crops for the production of bio-diesel. But since the production of these fuels compete with food crops, questions regarding food security and sustainability issues arise. Thus, there is tremendous potential for second generation biofuels in India, especially for cellulosic and agricultural crop residues.

Lignocellulosic and agricultural residue to the rescue!

More than half of India’s land is used for agriculture, with massive production of crops residues and crop wastes. Depending on the feedstock choice and the cultivation technique, second generation biofuel production has the potential to provide many benefits such as net GHG reduction and reducing competition with food consumption by making use of abandoned lands and consuming waste residues. At the same time, molasses (a by-product of sugar) production is commonly used for the production of alcohol and ethanol in India. However, current estimates indicate that molasses  alone will not be sufficient to meet India’s mandated requirement of 5% blending.

Second-generation biofuels derived from ligno-cellulosic feedstocks can overcome the problem of feedstock availability. These biofuels originate from agricultural residues and by-products, organic wastes, and materials derived from purposely grown energy plantations, offering a more preferable variety of woody, grassy, and waste materials as a feedstock.


Harvesting sweet sorghum for biofuel production in India. Photo courtesy of ICRISAT on creative commons

In India, although second-generation biofuels are still under technological investigation regarding conversion technologies and process operation, they are expected to meet the requirements for lower land use and much better CO2 emission reduction potential after commercialisation.

Existing potential

It is believed that the market transition from first to second-generation biofuels will be slow but steady based on this compatible infrastructure. Second-generation biofuels are compatible with today’s fuels, and the necessary infrastructure may come, to some extent, from the existing infrastructure of the petroleum and sugar industries in India.

In the year 2010-2011, the agricultural residues available for energy applications was 187 megatones (Mt) which were used to produce 50 billion litres ethanol and the net residue availability in 2020-2030 for biofuel production is estimated at 209 Mt which would yield 65 billion litres annually.

The recent World Energy Outlook (WEO) report of the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that India’s primary energy demand will increase from 750 Mt to 1200-1600 Mt (the range is defined by WEO 450 Scenario and Current Policies Scenarios) between 2010-2035 (IEA, 2013), it will  likely double over these years.

Biofuels are considered among the most promising and economically viable alternative option, as they can be produced locally, within the country, and can be substituted for diesel and petrol to meet the transportation sector’s requirements. Then there wouldn’t be dependency on foreign oils,helping boost the country’s overall economy.

Biofuel nursey. Photo courtesy of ICRISAT on creative commons

Biofuel nursey in Hassan, Karnataka, India. Photo courtesy of ICRISAT on creative commons

Hassan, Karnataka, India

The Indian biofuel policy

The Indian economy is growing at the rate of approximately 7% since 2000.

The biofuel policy of India has an indicative target of 20 percent blending of bioethanol by 2017 . India has 330 distilleries, which can produce more than 4 billion litres of rectified spirit (alcohol) per year in addition to 1.5 billion litres of fuel ethanol which could and should meet the requirement of 5% blending.

Cost issues

Over the years, the price of lignocellulosic ethanol will eventually come down from $1.09 to $0.72. Therefore, with reduced overall costs and oil prices, second-generation biofuels could be produced at lower costs than gasoline.

In conclusion, I would say that the second- generation biofuels from lignocellulosic and agricultural residues in India do provide for a really great market in the near future. It does look like India has all the financial resources and skilled labour needed to establish a ‘Second-Generation Biofuel Industry’. However certain barriers need to be eliminated such as technical, political and tax barriers. Also, to overcome poor infrastructure there should be a proper establishment for collection ,transport and handling of feedstocks from crop residues which will allow the country to step into second-generation biofuel production!

Moreover, private investors (especially the petroleum companies) should be encouraged to invest in biofuel programmes, and government policies should be conducive to their participation. Active involvement of the private sector and private-public partnerships could help accelerate the commercialisation of second generation biofuel technologies, which would be essential to tackle the challenges of India’s transport fuel security.


*Aradhey, A. 2012. India Biofuels Annual. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, GAIN Report Number IN2081, Approved by U.S. Embassy, New Delhi.

*  EIA. 2013. India country information. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Washington, D.C. (See: accessed on 13th April 2013)

*  Fischer, G., Prieler, S., van Velthuizen, H., Berndes, G., Faaij, A., Londo, M., de Wit, M. 2010. Biofuel production potentials in Europe: Sustainable use of cultivated land and pastures, Part II: Land use scenarios. Biomass and Bioenergy 34 (2), pp. 173-187.

*  IEA. 2013. World Energy Outlook 2013, International Energy Agency (IEA), Paris

*MoEF. 2010. India: Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2007. Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, New Delhi

*Shinoj, P., Raju, S.S., Joshi, P.K. 2011. India’s biofuels production programme: Need for prioritizing the alternative options. Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 81(5), pp. 391-397.

*Shinoj, P., Raju, S.S., Kumar, P., Msangi, S., Yadav, P., Thorat, V.S., Chaudhary, K.R. 2010. An economic Promoting low carbon transPort in india Second-Generation Biofuel Potential in India: Sustainability and Cost Considerations assessment along the Jatropha-based biodiesel value chain in India. Agricultural Economics Research Review. 23, pp. 393-404.

* Sims, R.E.H., Mabee, W., Saddler, J.N., Taylor, M. 2010. An overview of second generation biofuel technologies. Bioresource Technology, 101 (6), pp. 1570-1580.

*Suurs, R.A.A., Hekkert, M.P. 2009. Competition between first and second generation technologies: lessons from the formation of a biofuels innovation system in the Netherlands. Energy, 34, pp. 669– 679.


Most Popular Posts

All data and information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. BioFuelNet Canada makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.