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India Making E5 Mandatory in October 2006

Top 5 global ethanol producers in 2005. Click to enlarge.

Financial Express. The Indian Government will require refiners to blend 5% ethanol in gasoline starting in October 2006, and may increase that to a 10% requirement the following year, depending upon the success of the program. The standards will apply to both public and private sectors.

India’s central government first mandated the use of a maximum of 5% ethanol as an oxygenate in Bharat III level fuels in its “Auto Fuels Policy” of September 2003. Bharat III is equivalent to Euro 3, and was rolled out first to 11 major cities, with the rest of the country to follow by 2010. (Earlier post.)

In 2004, the Central Government increased the E5 mandate to cover sales in 10 states and 3 union territories. India as a whole has 28 states and seven union territories.

The revised mandate would apply to the entire country. Indian Petroleum minister Murli Deora has asked IOC, BPCL and HPCL to prepare for this by making necessary changes at the gasoline pumps and also simultaneously hold talks with ethanol producers to ensure adequate supply.

India is the fourth largest global producer of ethanol behind the US, Brazil and China, in that order.



Mark R. W. Jr

Not a bad idea. The USA ought to take a hint and the feds should mandate at least E5 in all service stations.


Why?  Ethanol has no air-quality benefits and is barely energy-positive (if at all; excluding co-products it's strongly negative).  In the USA its value is primarily as a way to get votes from agricultural interests.


I'm curious what the energy return on cellulosic ethanol is. I'm not too hot on ethanol anyway, due to its much lower energy density. I'm hoping that Environmental Energy, Inc. can get more investment into their process. I was told by the company they can use cellulosic feedstocks as well, and butanol is nearly as energy dense as gasoline.


Doesn't it technically shift that 5% of gasoline to natural gas usage, as per the distilling process?

Rafael Seidl

Actually, oxygenated fuels do have air quality beneifts in that they permit more complete combustion. On the other hand, evaporative losses can be higher if the fuel system isn't perfectly sealed. Range is reduced, but with an E5 blend you hardly notice. Mandating low blends also make more economic sense than setting up an entirely new infrastructure for e.g. E85.

By now, India is producing enough food to feed itself and then some, but agricultural policies in the EU and elsewhere are limiting the export potential. Converting the excess capacity to ethanol and biodiesel crops is one way for millions of extremely poor families in rural India to eek out a living. At current oil prices, almost everything makes more economic sense than importing energy.

India's agriculture is far less mechanized than that of the US, and fewer chemicals are used. There is also a lot more sunlight. Therefore, I would be surprised if US analyses regarding the net energy benefit of ethanol can be directly applied to India. The more pertinent comparision may be Brazil.

Rafael Seidl

Mel. -

ethanol is not typically produced via synthesis gas derived from natural gas as that would be very expensive indeed. Instead, it is produced by fermenting sugars, which are often produced from starches enzymatically in a pre-process. Fuel ethanol is typically denatured with 1-2% dyes and unpleasant-tasting chemicals to prevent it from being used for beverages.

Max Reid

With Corn based Ethanol,
Input = 100 units, Output = 130 units
With Sugarcane based Ethanol
Output is much higher.

BTW, for gasolene, with the best known oil wells shrinking and now a days, it takes drilling of miles to get the oil (that too little).

The Input-Output ratio is shrinking with oil.

Max Reid

Wind & Ethanol

Now a days, farmers in American mid-west and Europe are leasing small part of the land to wind farms which give them a decent royalty payments.

If the cane farmers who grow land for Ethanol also lease their land for wind farms. 2 renewable energy sources can be be cultivated in the same land.

India is a sugarcane country (ideal for Ethanol) and also a #4 producer of wind.

Sugarcane is only 10-12 feet (3-4 meters) tall and can ideall fit under the wind-mills whose lower tip of the blade will be atleast 30 feet (10 meters) from the ground.

Paul Dietz

ethanol is not typically produced via synthesis gas derived from natural gas as that would be very expensive indeed.

He was refering to natural gas used to produce the heat energy to distill the ethanol, I think (as well as for making nitrogen fertilizer.) There's no reason in principle the heat energy couldn't come from some other source, such as coal.


From the Boston Globe:

Earlier this month, the UN's children's agency, Unicef, said that 57 million of the world's 146 million malnourished children under the age of 5 were in India, by far the largest share of any nation.

Nearly half of Indian under-5s are underweight, it said.

According to official figures, about 1.2 million children under 5 die from malnutrition in India every year.

India is hardly doing a good job of feeding its citizens, especially its children. I hardly think India is producing enough food, and then some.


Poor children in developing countries are suffering from malnourishment, but that is not due to a shortage of food in the world, or even a shortage in their home countries. In the modern world, hunger caused by simple famine or underproduction is the exception, not the rule. Rather the problem is usually with distribution.

In the most extreme cases, war and civil strife destroy local production and prevent imported foods from entering a region. In less visible cases, such as what is probably taking place in the Indian countryside, a lack of income and opportunity caused by economic imbalances makes large segments of the population unable to afford sufficient food.

Increased ethanol use in India might actually help these families. If increased demand results in more development, jobs and income for Indian laborers, more money will make it into the pockets of those who need it, rather than being sent abroad to pay for imported fuel. As long as Europe continues to subsidize its agriculture heavily, freeing up some foreign exchange that would otherwise go to Saudi Arabia will, at worst, allow India to buy extra food for cheap.


That is actually what I was referring to, Paul, but thank you both for the insights. My experience with ethanol is primarily watching friends make their own version of it with a still, so the commercial process is something I'm learning the ropes of.

Again, much appreciated.

allen zheng

Palm oil biodiesel or SVO from palm trees mix in bio-ethanol/bio-butanol from sweet sorghum (~600-700 gallons per acre). Palm trees will yield ~600 gallons per acre. Plant crops that like the shadows for at least forage for milk or for substinance. This may lift many out of poverty or at least <$1 existance. Rotate in legume/nitro crops, and use biowaste composting.

Max Reid

Malnutrition in India in not because of Ethanol. They have US$ 140 billion in forex reserves and in Cellphone usage, it has overtaken Japan.

The main problem is that most of the money goes to Cities and the increasing Oil prices have compounded the problem. If more Sugarcane is produced and Ethanol refineries are setup in smaller towns and villages, it could move some money (that goes to Arab countries) to Indian Villages thereby reducing malnutrition.

Already the high wind energy usage have distributed electricity, jobs and money to villages. Ethanol is the 2nd step.

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