Blending biofuels to reduce gas prices and emissions

LAHORE: Pakistan is expected to focus on introducing the use of biofuels in the domestic market in the financial year 2022-23 to save nearly $1 billion and reduce the price of gasoline by 10 to 20%.

Despite immense potential, the country’s agricultural sector is totally devoid of fuel or energy crops. The 4F agricultural strategy, or the cultivation of crops to meet food, fodder, fiber and fuel needs, should be adopted in order to reduce the cost of fuel, reduce the oil import bill and reduce pollution through to the use of renewable sources of biofuels.

There is a need to institutionalize the cultivation of fuel or energy crops at the federal and provincial levels. The cultivation of sugar cane has the potential to become a major food as well as energy crop of the country, followed by maize.

In Pakistan, ethyl alcohol or ethanol can be produced either by direct fermentation of sugarcane juice or from molasses, which is a by-product of the sugar-making process. Ethanol can be used for the chemical industry, the drinking alcohol industry and as a biofuel in vehicles, directly or mixed with gasoline. However, in the case of a country like Pakistan, almost all of the manufactured ethanol is exported every year. The use of ethanol, which can be produced as a secondary or primary product of sugar cane processing, can reduce dependence on imported fuel in addition to its use in the manufacture of medicines, plastics, varnishes and cosmetics.

Ethanol can be used domestically as a transport fuel. Whether used in a blend with conventional fuels, such as E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), E15 or E20 on the same lines, or a flexible fuel that allows for a 50% ethanol blend 80%, subject to availability. This can help reduce emissions, a very important issue given the huge negative impact of climate change. According to a study, many countries around the world have successfully embarked on ethanol fuel production programs. Although the name of Brazil comes to mind when one thinks of following a successful model; Neighboring India and many other countries have developed and are shifting their fuel dependence from traditional gasoline-based products to ethanol-based fuels. The main reason for such a change is the volatility of oil prices.

As Pakistan is a sugar-producing country, it needs to carefully consider the hidden potential in the field of ethanol production. The use of ethanol as a fuel is viable for the country and policy makers need to think seriously about it in order to reduce our dependence on oil as well as capitalize on an already developed sugar industry from which the by-products of ethanol are made, the study adds.

According to figures compiled by the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), Pakistan exported 0.65 million tonnes of ethanol worth $475 million last year.

According to a proposal prepared by the sugar industry, dual fuel as an alternative to gasoline can present a win-win situation for the whole economy. From the commercialization of dual-fuel to flexi-fuel, the journey is not that complicated. Ethanol can be as cheap as CNG, but since its feedstock is made by the sugar industry itself, the use of ethanol will save Pakistan billions of rupees a year.

Such an initiative involving the use of biofuel is perfectly in line with achieving the objective of energy security and the obligation of climate change. Ethanol blending will also create thousands of local jobs.

To this end, Pakistan State Oil is to revive its E10 blend marketing program. In 2006, PSO launched the commercialization of a mixture of ethanol and gasoline produced locally within the framework of a pilot project.

PSO launched ‘E10 Gasoline’ in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore for the introduction of 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline as part of the then government’s strategy to promote energy resources alternatives. This was intended to help the country reduce its import bill in the future as well as provide motorists with an economical fuel option. With the introduction of E-10 gasoline around this time, Pakistan joined a few countries that sold blended fuel. Ethanol – a by-product of molasses by distillation, would not only be relatively cheaper for motorists, but would also improve engine performance through the elimination of lead as it has a high octane rating for better fuel economy.

Research has also determined that ethanol poses less of a pollution risk to drinking water. It would also benefit the farmer, who would feel attracted to growing more sugar cane and would get adequate compensation. Other countries in the world in 2006 where ethanol was used as fuel included the United States, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil and India. Unfortunately, Pakistan halted the biofuel program for reasons best known to policy makers. However, India has continued its efforts to consolidate ethanol blending. This work has gained momentum in recent years. Finally, last week, India hit the target of blending 10% ethanol in gasoline five months ahead of schedule, translating into lower carbon emissions, more savings for the countries and better incomes for farmers. In 2014, only 1.5% ethanol was blended into gasoline in India.

India’s incredible success in introducing a 10% ethanol blend has resulted in three major benefits. First, it resulted in the reduction of 2,700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions; second, India has managed to save more than INR 410,000 million over an eight-year period.

It can be noted that ethanol is a liquid that has several uses. At 95% purity, it is called rectified alcohol and is used as an intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages. At over 99% purity, ethanol is used for blending with gasoline. Both products are made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar manufacturing.