Govt hikes ethanol procurement price for fuel blending; move may cut oil import bill by $1 bn annually

The government on Tuesday announced an increase in the price of ethanol procured by public sector oil marketing companies for one year starting December

Press Trust of India September 03, 2019 15:20:13 IST
Govt hikes ethanol procurement price for fuel blending; move may cut oil import bill by $1 bn annually
  • The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

  • The price of ethanol derived from C heavy molasses has been increased from Rs 43.46 a litre to Rs 43.75 per litre, and for B heavy molasses to Rs 54.27 per litre from Rs 52.43 earlier, an official release said

  • Also, the price of ethanol from sugarcane juice, sugar, sugar syrup route has been fixed at Rs 59.48 per litre

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday raised the price of sugarcane-extracted ethanol used for blending in petrol by up to Rs 1.84 per litre as it looked to cut oil import bill by $1 billion annually through its greater use in auto fuels.

State-owned oil marketing companies will buy ethanol from sugar mills, for mixing in petrol, at enhanced rates for ethanol year beginning 1 December, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said here.

He was briefing reporters on the decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The price of ethanol from 'C-heavy molasses' has been raised by 29 paise per litre to Rs 43.75 while the same from 'B-heavy molasses', also called as intermediary molasses, by Rs 1.84 to Rs 54.27 a litre.

Ethanol is a by-product of molasses generated on crushing of sugarcane and the higher price is to encourage sugar mills to divert from sugar production.

Govt hikes ethanol procurement price for fuel blending move may cut oil import bill by 1 bn annually

Representational image. Reuters.

Cane-based ethanol can be produced three different ways — directly from cane juice, from B-grade and C-grade molasses.

Pradhan said the higher price is expected to increase the procurement of ethanol to 260 crore litres between December 2019 and November 2020, up from 200 crore litres bought in the previous ethanol year.

"Increased ethanol blending in petrol is expected to replace 2 million tonnes of oil annually, helping save $1 billion in import bill," he said.

The percentage of ethanol being doped in petrol will rise from about 6 percent now to 7 percent next year and to 10 percent by 2021-22, he said.

Price of ethanol was last revised in September last year when the CCEA had approved a 25 percent hike in the price of ethanol produced directly from sugarcane juice to Rs 59.13. Now it has been hiked to Rs 59.48.

At that time, the price of ethanol produced from B-heavy molasses was hiked from Rs 47.13 to Rs 52.43 but that from C-heavy molasses marginally reduced to Rs 43.46 from Rs 43.7.

Commenting on the decision, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) director general Abinash Verma said: "Government's decision to increase ethanol price once again, with special emphasis and a higher increase for ethanol made from B-heavy molasses, confirms the government's commitment towards encouraging more diversion of the surplus sugarcane/sugar into ethanol."

"The second very important decision of allowing a single premium price for the ethanol made from partial or 100 percent sugarcane juice is another big and positive step in this direction," he said.

"These decisions will help in further increasing the ethanol blend levels from the current 6 percent average levels across the country."

The sugar industry, he said, is responding very positively by hugely investing in new or expansion of ethanol production capacities, which will help achieve the government's 10 percent ethanol blend targets by 2022.

The world's third-largest oil consumer is dependent on imports to meet 83 percent of its needs and substituting some of the fuel with biofuels will help cut import dependence.

India started blending ethanol, produced as a by-product during the process of making sugar from sugarcane, in petrol during the first NDA regime in 2002. But the programme slowed almost to a grinding halt in the 10-year rule of Congress-led UPA.

It was revived again when the BJP first came to power in 2014. Ethanol blending in petrol increased from 38 crore litres in the ethanol supply year 2013-14 to an estimated 141 crore litres in the ethanol supply year 2017-18 and 200 crore litres in the following year.

India spent $112 billion on import of 226 million tonnes of crude oil in 2018-19.

Currently, petrol contains 6 percent of ethanol.

Pradhan said the price of ethanol from sugarcane juice/sugar/sugar syrup route has been fixed at Rs 59.48 per litre.

"Additionally, GST and transportation charges will also be payable. OMCs have been advised to fix realistic transportation charges so that long-distance transportation of ethanol is not disincentivised," he said adding the use of alternative and environment-friendly fuels will reduce import dependence and give a boost to the agriculture sector.

This comes at a time when a surplus of sugar production is depressing sugar price. Consequently, sugarcane farmer's dues have increased due to the lower capability of the sugar industry to pay the farmers.

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