Enviornment Prelims cum Mains

Airline adopts biofuel in green push

The News

  • In a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a brand new Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, flying from the French city of Toulouse to Hong Kong was partly powered by a sugarcane-based biofuel.
  • The fuel use was a 10% blend of biofuel along with traditional jet fuel.
  • Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%.



  • Transport sector accounts for one-third of global energy utilization, half of oil consumption, and nearly a quarter of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
  • Since 2000, the global biofuels supply has increased by a factor of 8%.
  • Biofuels account for 4% of the world’s transport fuels in 2015.
  • This significant rise is attributed to policies such as blending mandates.
  • In industries such as aviation, marine transport, and heavy freight, biofuels are deemed to be the only practical, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuel.
  • Aviation emissions account for 1.3% of the global greenhouse gas total today.
  • Further the total greenhouse gas emissions in aviation is projected to increase by 400%–600% between 2010 and 2050.
  • In conjunction with such trends, the aviation industry set targets for reducing CO2, and flew their first commercial test flight with biofuels in 2008.
  • As of mid-2015, approximately 22 airlines had completed more than 2000 passenger flights with biofuel representing up to half the jet fuel mix.
  • The UN accord signed by 191 countries in 2016 to curb aviation pollution underscores that there is substantial potential for continued biofuel adoption.


UN accord to reduce aviation emission, 2016

  • The world’s first agreement to curb aviation’s greenhouse gas pollution was signed by 191 nations in a landmark United Nations accord, at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency, in Montreal in October 2016.
  • The new accord is voluntary until 2027.
  • The world’s two largest emitters, the US and China, have promised to join in 2020.
  • The global emissions-reduction scheme applies to passenger and cargo flights that generate more than 10,000 tonnes of annual greenhouse gases.
  • Under the agreement, airlines will be involved in an offsetting scheme whereby forest areas and carbon-reducing activities will be funded, costing about 2% of the industry’s annual revenues.
  • Global aviation emissions in 2020 will be used as a benchmark.
  • Further 80% of emissions above 2020 levels will be offset until 2035.


About Biofuels

Conventional Biofuels

  • Conventional Biofuels are produced from food crops.
  • The feedstock used for biofuels include lignocelluloses, algae, corn, maize, jatropha, palm, soybeans, sugarcane, sweet sorghum.



  • Ethanol is produced by fermentation of sugar from cane or beets, starch from corn or wheat, or
  • root crops like cassava.
  • It has a higher-octane rating than conventional gasoline and improves combustion properties which translate into less pollution.
  • Ethanol is used as a fuel additive in gasoline at roughly 10%.



  • Produced through an esterification/trans-esterification reaction of vegetable oils (soybean, palm) or animal fats.


Advanced Biofuels

  • Advanced Biofuels are produced typically from non-food crops and residues or waste materials.
  • Common forms include ‘drop-in fuels’ and biobutanol.
  • Drop-in fuels are renewable diesel and gasoline that are derived from lipids (i.e., vegetable oils, animal fats, greases, and algae) or cellulosic materials (i.e., crop residues, and woody biomass).
  • Biobutanol is a biomass-based fuel that is produced by fermenting the same feedstock as ethanol, but is mediated by different microorganisms.


Emissions from biofuels

  • Biofuels are also reported to reduce GHG emissions by 60%–94% relative to fossil fuels.
  • Biodiesel can favorably reduce particulate matter by nearly 88% relative to petroleum-based diesel.
  • However biofuels release greater amounts of nitrogen oxides negatively impacting the environment.


Policy interventions

  • National Biofuels policy, 2009 envisaged the use of renewable energy in transport, with an aim to replace 20% of petroleum-based fuel with biofuels by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan in 2017.
  • Under the policy Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) had been directed to sell Ethanol Blended Petrol with percentage of ethanol up to 10 per cent.
  • However, due to insufficient supply the OMCs could only manage a national average of less than 3 per cent ethanol blending.
  • In 2014, diesel prices were deregulated, enabling more favorable conditions for biodiesel production.
  • The government announced a blending requirement of 10% ethanol in gasoline, beginning with the October 2015/2016 sugarcane season.
  • Discussions are now focused on amending the 2009 biofuels law, including coverage of a mandatory blend for biodiesel.
  • A recent push for alternative fuels to become a Methanol Economy is to be watched in the coming years.
  • A National Policy on Biofuels was launched in May 2018 to promote production of biofuels.



  • The Policy categorises biofuels as
  1. Basic Biofuels viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol, biodiesel and Advanced Biofuels
  2. Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels
  3. Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc.
  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • It includes from lignocellulosic biomass as against the conventional approach of molasses based ethanol production.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme(EBP) aims 20 percent ethanol blending in petrol by 2030.

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