[T]he new incarnation of India’s 20% biofuels mandate (An indicative target of 20 percent blending of bio-fuels in diesel and ethanol by 2017) arrived in Delhi on Christmas Eve, bringing tidings of great joy to those inside and many outside the industry, including the announcement of a national biofuel fund for second generation biofuels.
It was welcomed by a booming auto industry that has seen an unprecedented increase in new car sales due to the strong economy and the introduction of Tata’s Nano and its low-priced competitors—all capable of running E20 in petrol.
At the same time the Indian industry has become more internationally oriented. This year’s CII Biofuels Summit in Delhi was jointly sponsored by the India Brazil Chamber of Commerce and featured both Indian and Brazilian experts as speakers. An Indo-U.S. MoU has also been signed on second generation bio-fuels like cellulosic ethanol and algal biodiesel.
Biomass supply problems still remain an issue, but the industry has now reached the “2.0” stage of production technology, having incorporated the lessons of past failures along with current plant science and innovative However initiatives aimed at switching to dryland crops that do not require continual irrigation are beginning to pay off and Praj Industries recently showed a sustainable zero-waste production system for drought-tolerant sweet sorghum that produces only ethanol and compost for the next crop. A similar sugar cane system that the company implemented in Colombia has been hailed as a game changer for the international ethanol industry.