Gov’t’s ethanol program to tackle transportation hurdles

The ethanol production in India for blending with petrol has skyrocketed from 38 million liters in 2013-14 to 453 crore liters for the current 2021-22 years of supply (December-November). With the supply for 20 percent blended by 2025-26 predicted at 1,016 million liters, according to NITI Aayog, a new logistical challenge is emerging in the transportation of this fuel from distilleries to blending depots as well as retail outlets.

“Currently all of the ethanol is transported on trucks. Transporting 1,016 crore liters of ethanol will require around 3.5 lakh tankers with an average capacity of 29 kilolitres. This is not only expensive however, but it could also mean burning up fuel to transport fuel and cause greenhouse gas emissions of about 75 million tonnes,” declared Akhilesh Goyal, the managing director of Maarewa Sugars, a company based in Madhya Pradesh. Pvt. Ltd.

According to Goyal, the government needs to look at alternative routes for the movement of ethanol, including via dedicated pipelines as well as rail tank wagons, steamers, and ferries in coastal areas. “They can also look at the RORO (roll-on/roll-off) model of moving ethanol truck-tankers themselves by rail,” Goyal spoke at a recent conference about sugar as well as ethanol that was held through the Indian Sugar Mills Association and the Brazilian agricultural consultancy company DATAGRO.

Plinio Nastari President of DATAGRO Plinio Nastari, president of DATAGRO, stated the country of Brazil (which produces 3,500 million liters of ethanol every year) has 14 refineries for oil and 354 distilleries of ethanol which supply 170 fuel depots across the country. The transportation of ethanol and fuel from depots is done entirely via pipelines as well as coastal ships or rail. Transport via truck tankers is only possible during the final stretch, from depots to 41,700 retail stores.

Nastari thought there was no need for separate pipelines for transporting the ethanol. “In the last 40 years, we have been using multi-product pipelines for movement of diesel, gasoline (petrol), and ethanol,” Nastari declared. Nastari however, advocated certain precautions because alcohol is a solvent that dissolves gums that are formed in gasoline , and then accumulated in tanks. “Having filters in the fuel hose pipes can ensure that this gum (which comes from gasoline and not ethanol) will not cause problems to the vehicles,” Nastari said.

The ethanol production of India’s 38 million liters will allow just 1.53 percent blend with gasoline in 2013-14. The supply year’s current production of 450 crore liters including 370 crores from distilleries that use sugarcane as their base as well as 80 million liters of those who use grain feedstock will enable 10% mixing.

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