- According to industry experts, use of crop residue in production of biofuels which will inturn reduce the menace of stubble burning, but it may take years to happen.
- According to Comprehensive Action Plan- to combat air pollution in Delhi-NCR region prepared by MoEF, one of the important steps is to control activities of crop burning.
- The Supreme Court-appointed Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority also in its report pointed out 5 key sources of air pollution in Delhi-NCR namely:
- Combustion in power plants and industries using dirty fuels, like pet coke,coal and biomass
- Garbage burning, both in landfills and other places
- Dust management on roads, construction sites etc.
- Crop residue burning because farmers do not have alternatives for use of straw
- The National Biofuels Policy 2018 also prescribes use of crop residues to produce biofuels increasing the country’s ethanol and biodiesel production.
- Given the increased demand for biofuels in the country the menace of stubble burning could be attacked and re-route crop residue for increasing bio fuel production in the country.
Stubble Burning: The issue
- As mentioned above the stated objective of the government in various policies is to route the crop residue for producing biofuels thereby reducing stubble burning.
- However, stubble burning still remains a major problem across the country.
- According to estimates, crop residue burnt in India range from 200 million tonnes to 240 million tonnes a year.
- This is particularly severe in Punjab and Haryana which account for about 20 million tonnes every year.
Why stubble burning continues?
- According to industry experts, using crop residue for biofuel is still not economically viable for farmers and biofuel companies because the logistics cost of collecting the husk is very high.
- Ethanol yield from husk is very low and thus not a lucrative option.
- Since, harvest window is only 20-30 days, burning is the quickest solution farmers having before the land is ready for next crop.
- Government can incentivize using of husk in ethanol production.
- In addition to National Biofuel Policy at the Centre, states should bring about micro-guidelines on biofuels.
- Crop residue can be used for making pellets that can complement the coal burned in thermal power plants.
- Setting up of ethanol and bio-CNG plants that uses crop residue as fuel.
- State should prescribe clear guidelines for establishment of a robust supply chain for crop residues from the field to the power plant.
- According to a report by the US Department of Agriculture, ethanol consumption in India is set to increase from 2 billion litres in 2017 to 2.4 billion litres in 2018.
- Further the investment in in the biofuel sector in India is set to increase from $1.5-2 billion currently to $15 billion in 2022.
- 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 are produced typically from non-food crops and residues or waste materials.
- Common forms include:
- ‘Drop-in fuels’: These 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: It 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:
- “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels”
- Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels
- 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.