Ethanol The Alternative Fuel (E)

"ETHANOL: The Alternative Fuel (Synopsis) Everyone realizes the role of fuels in powering production and economy. But the expenditure on fossil fuels is a huge drain on our resources and consuming them is poisonous to our environment. But the consumption of oil has only been galloping and has increased our reliance on imports. The surge in the global benchmark crude oil rates has pushed India’s crude oil import bill higher by a whopping 42 percent to 125 billion dollars (881,282 crore rupees) during 2018-2019. Dr. Kalam had strongly advocated the path of alternative fuels including bio-fuel. Blending of petrol with 3% ethanol led to a saving of 4000 crore rupees in one year as the PM stated. Ethanol blending was introduced in India in 2003 but in 2014, government saw that it was mere 3 percent. Inadequate supply of cane molasses for ethanol and non-edible vegetable oil (1G bio-fuel) was responsible.. The government passed a bill to achieve a target of 20 percent ethanol blending by 2030 using 2 G bio-fuels. But where is the desired ethanol? The documentary ‘Ethanol: The New Ethics!’ introduces ethanol or ethyl alcohol as being molecules made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. To a non-scientist, this may be explained as the liquid used in making liquor, after-shave lotions and also many antiseptic liquids. Ethanol comes from crops like corn and sugarcane but that amounts to snatching food from someone’s plate. In an interesting twist, the serious air pollution problem faced in cities like Delhi was traced to parali (agricultural waste)- burning prompting the idea of testing agricultural waste for generating alcohol. For India it was novel and adaption required research. Bio-ethanol from agricultural waste was a major development realized by Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai through a long arduous path to reduce processing time to 18 hours from 7 days and also paving way to butanol from ethanol. The documentary highlights advantages of compactness, low capital investment and shows the processes in laboratories/ plant explaining continuous processing from size reduction to fermentation; recycle/reuse of chemicals, enzymes and water. There is high recovery of sugars but little toxic formation leading to effective production of sugars useful for other products. The plant was set up in 2012, and officially inaugurated in 2016 by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Cabinet Minister, S & T, Earth Sciences & Biotechnology. The plant, designed to operate with any feedstock from soft grasses to hard woods, can produce alcohol from any biomass with a capacity of producing 10 tons/ day. But how to get the raw material? In a bold step, in the year 2018, the Union Food Ministry allowed sugar mills tomanufacture ethanol directly from sugarcane juice or an intermediate called B-molasses. This decision was taken as sugar mills were incurring losses due to price-fallcaused by record output of 32 million tonnes in 2017-18. The documentary’s content is enriched through direct conversations with people who are in the ring. They include likes of Mr. Ramakrishna Y.B, Member, Working group on Bio-fuels, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas; Dr. Sangita M. Kasture, Scientist/Joint Director, DBT; Prof. Arvind M. Lali, Head, DBT-ICT Center for Energy Biosciences; ICT, Mumbai; Mr. U S Bhartia, Chairman and Managing Director, India Glycols Limited; Dr. Annamma Anil, DBT-ICT Center for Energy Biosciences, ICT, Mumbai; Mr. Milind S. Patke, Executive Director, (HSSE & Bio Fuels), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited; Mr. Subodh Kumar, Executive Director, Alternate Energy & Sustainable Development, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd.; Lt. Col. Monish Ahuja (Retd), Managing Director, Punjab Renewable Energy System Pvt. Ltd. and Mr. Shishir Joshipura, CEO & Managing, Director, Praj Industries Ltd. And Dr. Aswini Barua. "

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