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Ethanol as a Fuel in India | Basics of Ethanol | Advantage & Disadvantage of Ethanol as a Fuel

Over the last ten years, the emphasis on reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel has been an agenda for many governments. In a bid to reduce their collective carbon footprint, many country have started looking for a green or clean energy. It is the reason to use bio-ethanol fuel has increased in many countries.

The use of ethanol as a fuel for vehicles, either alone or in combination with other fuels, has been given much attention mostly because of its possible environmental and long-term economical advantages over fossil fuel.The use of ethanol as an automobile fuel is as old as the invention of the internal combustion engine itself. Ethanol was examined as an automotive fuel by Nikolas A Otto in 1897 during his early engine studies. Brazil has been using this fuel since 1920s.

Ethanol can be combined with petrol in any concentration up to pure ethanol (E100). Anhydrous ethanol, that is, ethanol without water, can be blended with petrol in varying quantities to reduce the consumption of petroleum fuels, as well as to reduce air pollution.Ethanol, an alcohol fuel, provides high quality, high octane for exceptional engine performance and reduced emissions. Ethanol has been used in cars since Henry Ford designed his 1908 Model T to operate on alcohol.

What is Ethanol

Bio-ethanol, often shortened to just ‘ethanol’, is a sustainable liquid transport fuel derived from biomass.It is also known as ethyl alcohol, grain spirit or moonshine – but is commonly referred to as just ‘alcohol’. Ethanol (and its derivatives) has a long history of different uses – in industry (as a solvent), food (in alcoholic beverages), medicine (as a sterilizing agent), transport (as fuel) and agriculture. It is a colour-less, flammable, oxygenated hydrocarbon. Ethanol is also hygroscopic – that is, it can absorb water from its surroundings. Ethanol has a boiling point of 78.5°C, a density of .789gcm and a molecular weight of 46.0684gmol. Ethanol is now predominantly used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form as a replacement for gasoline, where it is blended with gasoline to improve vehicle emissions and power.

Ethanol as a fuel in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched petrol blended with 20 per cent ethanol (ethyl alcohol), also called ‘E20’, at the India Energy Week February 6, 2023. This is touted to be a landmark green initiative to help the country reduce carbon emissions.Ethanol is a biofuel naturally produced by the fermentation of sugar extracted from sugarcane and agricultural waste such as bagasse and paddy straw. Ethanol, when blended with petrol, will reduce fossil fuel consumption and bring down the country’s import bills.

The government is supporting advanced biofuel projects through the Pradhan Mantri Jivan Yojana with financial assistance of approximately Rs 25,000 crore.Domestically produced ethanol has been identified as an opportunity to reduce oil imports, in an effort to achieve energy independence.

What Is Ethanol Blending?

Ethyl alcohol or ethanol (C2H5OH) is a biofuel that is made naturally by fermenting sugar derived from sugarcane or other organic matter like foodgrains. As part of its carbon reduction commitments, India has launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme to mix this biofuel with petrol to reduce the consumption of petrol. India has already met its E10 target, so petrol used in the country has 10% ethanol in it. The E20 pilot covers at least 15 cities and will be rolled out across the country in a phased manner.

Ethanol is made from biomass

Ethanol is use as a fuel in spark-ignition engines. Most of the fuel ethanol produced around the world is made by fermenting the sugar in the starches of grains such as corn, sorghum, and barley, and the sugar in sugar cane and sugar beets. Denaturants are added to ethanol to make fuel ethanol undrinkable.

There are other potential sources of ethanol other than fermentation of grain starch and sugars. Researchers have experimented with feedstocks including agriculture residues such as corn and rice stalks, fast-growing poplar and willow trees, grasses such as switchgrass that can produce two harvests a year for many years without annual replanting, and biomass in municipal solid waste. Trees and grasses require less fuel, fertilizers, and water to grow than grains do, and they can be grown on lands that are not suitable for growing food crops. Ethanol made from these sources is called cellulosic ethanol and is considered an advanced biofuel under the RFS. However, despite the technical potential for cellulosic ethanol production from those sources, economical production has been difficult to achieve.

Advantages and disadvantages of Ethanol as a Fuel


  • Unlike petroleum, ethanol is a renewable resource

  • Ethanol burns more cleanly in air than petroleum, producing less carbon (soot) and carbon monoxide

  • The use of ethanol as opposed to petroleum could reduce carbon dioxide emissions, provided that a renewable energy resource was used to produce crops required to obtain ethanol and to distill fermented ethanol


  • Ethanol has a lower heat of combustion (per mole, per unit of volume, and per unit of mass) that petroleum

  • Large amounts of arable land are required to produce the crops required to obtain ethanol, leading to problems such as soil erosion, deforestation, fertilizer run-off and salinity

  • Major environmental problems would arise out of the disposal of waste fermentation liquors.

  • Typical current engines would require modification to use high concentrations of ethanol

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