Enviornment Prelims cum Mains

Why biofuel for aircraft holds out promise, but isn’t ready to fly yet

The News

  • India’s first biofuel-powered flight successfully flew from Dehradun to Delhi.
  • The aircraft named ‘Haldi’ is a SpiceJet-owned Q400 turboprop Bombardier aircraft.


News Highlights

  • The aircraft used mixed fuel with 25% concentration of biofuel.
  • The biofuel was produced at Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun.
  • The biofuel was extracted using Jatropha seeds sourced from Chhattisgarh.
  • The fuel concentration can go upto 50%.



  • Aviation emissions account for 1.3% of the global greenhouse gases total today.
  • Further the total greenhouse gas emissions in aviation are projected to increase by 400%–600% between 2010 and 2050.
  • In 2014, International Air Transport Association made following commitments:
    • Average annual improvement of 1.5% in fuel efficiency from 2009 to 2020
    • Cap on net aviation carbon emissions from 2020
    • Reduction in net aviation carbon emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels
    • 1 billion passengers using biofuel-powered flights by 2025.
  • In this backdrop 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.


Impact of using biofuels

  • Low-carbon Footprint: According to a report by NASA biofuels will reduce GHG emissions by 50%–70% relative to fossil fuels.
  • Lower Airfares: Biofuels can significantly reduce the cost of aviation fuel making air travel cheaper.
  • Doubling Farmer’s income: Since raw material used for conventional biofuels will be sourced from agriculture it will help augment farmer’s income.



  • Currently the infrastructure to mass-produce biojet fuel is lacking
  • Fuel-transportation and handling infrastructure are at nascent stage.
  • Conventional biofuels might displace other agricultural activity.
  • Second generation fuels poses extraction challenges.


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.
  1. Ethanol
  • 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 translates into less pollution.
  • Ethanol is used as a fuel additive in gasoline at roughly 10%.
  1. Biodiesel
  • 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.


About National Policy on Biofuels

  • 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.
  • Wider choice of raw material for ethanol production including 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.
  • 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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