In 2020, the lesson learned was that ethanol is the embodiment of “Essential Energy”. Ethanol produces the renewable fuel and delivers the nutritious feed that livestock and poultry producers rely upon. Ethanol proved essential for weathering the Covid.
Recognising the critical need to combat the spread of the virus, many ethanol producers quickly took the steps necessary to produce the high-purity alcohol that comprises roughly 70% of every bottle of hand sanitizer. Later in the year, news that vaccines were in development was greeted with understandable enthusiasm; it signalled the beginning of the end of the pandemic. But it also created a new challenge.
Much of the vaccine would need to be transported and stored at incredibly low temperatures, necessitating increased supplies of dry ice. Once again, the ethanol industry – which produces supply of CO2, the critical component of dry ice – was called upon to meet the increased demand for an essential product. The 2021 Ethanol Industry Outlook suggest that tomorrow’s challenges of climate change, food and energy security, and rural prosperity will continue to make ethanol an Essential Energy.
The global ethanol market size was valued at USD 89.1 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% from 2020 to 2027. The demand for the product is driven by growing usage of the product as a biofuel. The rising consumption of alcoholic beverages is another major factor supporting market growth. Ethanol can be manufactured by both natural as well as petrochemical feedstocks. In the natural process, natural sugars are fermented in the presence of yeast.
The Indian ethanol market is projected to grow from $2.50 billion in 2018 to $7.38 billion by 2024, exhibiting a CAGR of 14.50% during 2019-2024, on the back of increasing ethanol use in applications such as fuel additives and beverages. Ethanol is a prominent alcoholic beverage, mainly found in beer, cider, wine, spirits and ale. Indian government is trying to reduce its dependence on imported crude oil and incentivising Indian sugar manufacturers to produce ethanol for Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). It is expected that ethanol production will increase by three to five folds in the future in order to meet the demand for its 20% Fuel Blending Programme (FBP). Factors such as increasing alcohol consumption and changing lifestyle along with growing influence of the western culture are likely to drive the demand for ethanol in the country.
In terms of source, the Indian ethanol market has been categorised into sugar & molasses based ethanol, second generation (mixed grains) and grain-based ethanol. Based on application, the market has been segmented into industry solvent, fuel & fuel additive, beverages, disinfectant, personal care, and flavouring & fragrance. Based on purity, the market has been segmented into denatured and undenatured. Government’s emphasis on ethanol production from bio mass and solid waste is likely to become a major source of ethanol production in future.
India has target of achieving 10% Ethanol blending by 2022 and 20% Ethanol blending by 2030.
Ethanol remains the highest-octane, lowest-cost motor fuel on the planet. And it is the only tool available at scale in the near term to significantly reduce carbon emissions from gasoline. Meanwhile, the industry’s co-products – including distillers grains and distillers oil – provide indispensable protein and energy to a hungry world.
State-run oil marketers are required to blend 10% ethanol in petrol under the national policy on biofuels 2018 by 2022 and 20% by 2030. But so far this has not been moving at scale as surplus sugarcane was not easily available and the blending is only 5% now.
To improve supplies of ethanol-blended petrol, the government has widened the feedstock options. Accordingly, the National Biofuel Coordination Committee of the oil ministry in June allowed the conversion of surplus rice with the Food Corporation into ethanol.
It has also allowed procurement and conversion of the surplus maze into ethanol. With this, the ethanol production happens from six feedstocks -100% sugarcane juice/sugar syrup/sugar; B-heavy molasses which is sweeter; C-heavy molasses which is mildly sweet; damaged food grain; surplus rice from FCI and surplus maize.
Adding surplus rice procurement process from FCI has already started for the 2020-21 cycle and very soon OMCs shall start procuring maze for making ethanol as well.
Of the total blending by 2022, 300-350 crore litres will come from sugarcane, and the rest from non-sugar feedstock like damaged foodgrains, adding 160 crore litres of 180 crore litres come from sugarcane.
The estimated annual petrol demand is pegged at 4,600 crore litre this year, which means 450-460 crore litre of ethanol mixing in the December 2020-November 2021 crop cycle.
Mills in U.P. are expected to produce about 105lac tons in 2020-21 SS, as against 126.37 lac tons produced in 2019-20 SS. Estimated lower production this year is because of reportedly lower cane yields and lower sugar recoveries in the State, much higher diversion to gur/khandsari units and much higher diversion of sugar for production of ethanol by way of diversion of B-heavy molasses and sugarcane juice. Based on the allocations made by the OMCs for supply of ethanol in 2020-21, it is estimated that about 6.74 lac tons of sugar will be diverted for production of ethanol by the sugar mills in the State in the current year as compared to about 3.70 lac tons diverted in 2019-20 SS.
In the sector of cane development and sugar industry, distillation of 120 kilolitres per day capacity will be established in Pipraich sugar mill which will start in December 2021. There will be facility to manufacture ethanol.
Pipraich sugar mill will be the first sugar mill in North India to manufacture ethanol directly from sugarcane juice.
The crushing capacity of Mohiuddinpur-Meerut sugar mill of the corporation area was increased to 3,500 TCD from 2,500 TCD.
A target to increase the crushing capacity of Mohiuddinpur-Meerut sugar mill from 3,500 TCD to 5,000 TCD is proposed to benefit 1,00,000 cane farmers in the state.
Cabinet has approved guidelines for production of ethanol from cane juice and syrup in the distilleries of the state.
Cabinet order is as follows: The decision will aid in reducing excess sugar stocks, increasing liquidity with the sugar mills for settling cane farmer’s dues and making higher ethanol available for Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme; Surplus sugar production has depressed sugar prices, thereby impacting sugar industry’s capacity to pay sugar cane farmers. The ex-distillery price of ethanol derived from cane juice is `85 per liter while that from C- heavy molasses is `45.69 per liter, for the ethanol supply year beginning December 2020. Higher remunerative price for ethanol produced from cane juice will help in reduction of cane farmer’ arrears; Sugarcane juice shall mean, primary juice, secondary juice, mixed juice and clear juice as obtained by sulphitation or defecation process. Sugarcane syrup shall mean concentrated juice having total dissolved solid content not less than 50 brix; Sugar mills with captive distilleries within the premises shall be allowed to produce ethanol from cane juice and syrup. Standalone distilleries will not be allowed to produce ethanol from cane juice and syrup; Ethanol produced from cane juice shall be used only for Ethanol Blended (EBP) Programme; as no sugar or molasses is produced in the process, the income from ethanol derived from cane juice and syrup shall be tagged for payment of sugarcane dues to farmers. All the instructions regarding cane allotment and cane payment issued from time to time shall be binding on these units and The State Government has earlier permitted ethanol production from B-heavy molasses. Since then, more than 40 distilleries in the state are producing ethanol form B-heavy molasses, resulting in a significant increase in ethanol production in the state. The state is the highest producer of ethanol in the country.
Cabinet decision will empower the sugar mills to choose between production of sugar or production of ethanol from cane juice, based on viability of market price of sugar, further improving the income of sugar mills and there by better cane payment to farmers.
Maharashtra is expected to produce about 105.41 lac tons in 2020-21 SS, as against 61.69 lac tons produced in 2019-20 SS. Higher estimated sugar production this year is mainly due to increased cane area by about 48% and better cane yields as compared to the last season owing to favourable weather conditions as well as increase in percentage of plant cane. Based on the allocations made by the OMCs for supply of ethanol in 2020-21, it is estimated that sugar mills in the State will divert about 6.55 lac tons of sugar for production of ethanol in the current year, which is substantially higher as compared to only about 1.42 lac tons diverted in 2019-20 SS.
The third major sugar producing State viz. Karnataka is expected to produce about 42.5 lac tons of sugar in 2020-21 SS, as against 34.94 lac tons produced in 2019-20 SS. Similar to Maharashtra, there is an increase in cane area and reportedly better cane yields and better sugar recoveries, which is resulting in higher estimated sugar production in the current season. Mills in the State are expected to divert about 5.41 lac tons of sugar for ethanol production in the current year as compared to about 2.42 lac tons diverted in 2019-20 SS.
These three major sugar-producing States are estimated to contribute almost 93% of the total estimated diversion of sugar into ethanol of about 20.10 lac tons in the current season.
The Government had announced two important policy decisions to improve liquidity of sugar mills during 2020-21 SS, by way of announcement of sugar export programme of 60 lakh tons and upward revision of ethanol prices for 2020-21 SS, which have been welcomed by the industry.
However, the government is yet to announce implementation of a very crucial policy decision i.e. increasing MSP of sugar. This will improve the liquidity of the mills enabling them to make timely cane payment to farmers also. The ex-mill sugar prices are already under pressure in almost all the States and to ensure that sugar mills are able to pay to farmers on time, there is need to quickly decide on increasing the MSP of sugar.