Saturday January 28, 2023

Biofuel blending to slash petrol price, emissions

June 08, 2022

LAHORE: Pakistan should focus on introducing use of biofuel in the domestic market in financial year 2022-23 to save nearly a billion dollars coupled with slashing petrol price by 10 to 20 percent.

Despite immense potential, the agriculture sector of the country is completely devoid of fuel or energy crops. The 4F farming strategy, or cultivation of crops for meeting Food, Feed, Fiber and Fuel needs, should be adopted in order to lower fuel cost, cut petroleum import bill and reduce pollution through use of renewable source of biofuels.

There is need to institutionalise growing of fuel or energy crops at federal as well as provincial levels. Sugarcane crop has potential to become a major food as well as fuel crop of the country followed by maize.

In Pakistan, Ethyl alcohol or ethanol can either be produced by direct fermentation of sugarcane juice or from molasses, which is a by-product of the sugar manufacturing process. Ethanol can be used for chemical industry, potable alcohol industry and as a biofuel in vehicles, direct or blended with gasoline. However, in the case of a country like Pakistan, almost all of the manufactured ethanol is exported every year. Use of ethanol, which can be manufactured as by or main product out of sugarcane processing, can lead to reduced dependence on imported fuel in addition to use it in the manufacture of medicines, plastics, polishes and cosmetics.

Ethanol can be used domestically as transportation fuel. Whether use it as blends with conventional fuels, such as E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent petrol), E15 or E20 on same lines, or flex fuel that allows ethanol blending of 50 to 80 percent, depending on availability. This can help reduce emissions, a highly important issue keeping in view the huge negative impact of climate change. According to a study, many countries of the world have embarked upon successful ethanol fuel production programmes. Although the name of Brazil comes to mind when we think of following a successful model; neighbouring India and many other countries have developed and are in the process of switching their fuel reliance from traditional gasoline products to ethanol-based fuels. The primary reason for such a shift is volatility in the prices of oil.

Pakistan being a country that produces sugar needs to carefully examine the hidden potential in the area of ethanol production. Using ethanol as a fuel is viable for the country and the policymakers need to give it a serious thought in order to lessen our dependence on oil as well as to capitalise on an already developed sugar industry from whose by-products ethanol fuel is manufactured, the study adds.

According to figures compiled by Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), Pakistan exported 0.65 million tonnes of ethanol worth $475 million last year.

According to a proposal prepared by the sugar industry, blended fuel as an alternative to petrol can present a win-wins situation for the whole economy. From marketing of blended fuel to flexi-fuel, the journey is not so complicated. Ethanol can be as cheap as CNG, but since its raw material is being made by the sugar industry itself, using ethanol will save Pakistan billions of rupees annually.

Such an initiative involving use of biofuel perfectly fits in meeting the goal of energy security and obligation of climate change. Blending of ethanol will also create thousands of local jobs.

For this purpose, Pakistan State Oil needs to revive its programme of marketing E10 blend. In 2006, PSO started marketing of indigenously produced ethanol blending with gasoline as a pilot project.

PSO launched ‘E10 Gasoline’ in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore for introduction of 10 percent ethanol blending with petrol as part of the then government’s strategy to promote alternate energy resources. This was aimed at helping the country reduce its import bill in future as well as providing motorists with an economical fuel option. With the introduction of E-10 gasoline at that time, Pakistan joined few nations who sold blended fuel. Ethanol - a byproduct of molasses through distillation, would not only be comparatively cheaper for motorists but will also enhance performance of the engine through lead removal as it possess high octane rating for better fuel economy.

Research has also determined that ethanol presents less of pollution risk to drinking water. It would also benefit the farmer, who would feel attracted to grow more sugarcane and get adequate compensation. Other countries in the world in 2006 where ethanol was being used as fuel included US, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, and India. Unfortunately, Pakistan discontinued biofuel programme due to reasons better known to policymakers. However, India continued efforts to consolidate blending of ethanol. Such work gathered steam in recent years. Eventually, last week, India achieved the target of blending 10 percent ethanol in petrol five months ahead of schedule, resulting in less carbon emissions, more savings for the country, and better income for farmers. In 2014, only 1.5 percent ethanol was blended in petrol in India.

India’s astounding success introducing 10 percent ethanol blending has resulted in three major advantages. First, it has resulted in the reduction of 2,700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions; second, India has managed to save over INR 410,000 million over an eight-year period.

It may be noted that ethanol is a liquid that has several uses. At 95 percent purity, it is called rectified spirit and is used as the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages. At 99 percent-plus purity, ethanol is used for blending with petrol. Both products are made from molasses, a by-product of sugar manufacturing.