At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), India pledged to harness 50% of its energy from renewable resources by 2030. Indeed, the severe repercussions of climate change have pushed countries to target sectors like the aviation industry and lower emission rates through an active application of renewable energy. But, does a developing country like India have the innovation and infrastructure required to reach the renewable energy goals promised at the global forum?
The Primary Step To A Cleaner Aviation Industry
India is one of the largest greenhouse gas producers, transitioning to clean energy and a low-carbon economy in the bid to build a resilient future, demanding progressive reforms and comprehensive strategies, especially targeting the thriving aviation sector. Therefore, the primary objective of the reforms should aim for carbon-neutral growth through the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme set up by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The scheme recommends that aviation industries gradually introduce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The application of this increasingly available fuel can produce massive GHG reductions (65-100 percent) concerning currently used fossil jet fuel. Although a change in aviation fuel is generally followed by a change in aircraft engines, SAF demands zero equipment or infrastructure investments. However, this is applicable only for the SAFs qualified under ASTM International Standard D7566.
Meeting SAF’s Production Cost
This simple change can potentially catalyze India’s transition to greener technologies, but can the country bear the cost of SAFs production to meet its aviation industry’s expected double-digit growth? Aircraft engines run on an energy-dense liquid fuel such as high-octane petroleum. Aviation fuel contains carbon and SAF is no exception. However, instead of petroleum, the carbon in SAF comes from green sources of energy like sustainably grown crops. Such feedstock contributes to 70-80% of overall SAF production cost.
Hence, India needs to find a low-cost and readily available feedstock to support its sustainability goals. One such sustainable aviation fuel feedstock is ethanol as the ASTM D7566 allows its application for commercial purposes like Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ). India should look forward to introducing ethanol as a sustainable aviation fuel feedstock. This step can propel the agile and integrated ethanol value chains and boost the country’s transition to a more sustainable future.
Why Should India Switch To ATJ?
There are several surprising benefits India should leverage by introducing a carbon-efficient energy source like ATJ. Let’s discuss a few:
- ATJ can produce sustainable aviation fuel with a carbon efficiency of more than 95%. Its high yield makes it an excellent alternative to high-octane petroleum.
- It can reach up to 90% jet selectivity and up to 75% diesel selectivity, hence easing market adaptability.
- Faster adoption is guaranteed as ATJ uses the existing refinement technologies and petrochemicals. If begun today, India can produce the first 40 million liters per year ATJ facility by 2023. Such plants are set to be established in European countries and the United States.
- ATJ can be produced through locally-sourced sustainable feedstocks. In this pursuit, India can create more clean energy jobs and provide employment.
- Since the existing gas fermentation facilities in the country can recycle CO and CO2 and produce sustainable ethanol, a large production of sustainable aviation fuel will not impact the natural resources, land, or the food chain.
Here’s a fun fact —
“India produces more than 30 billion liters of sustainable ethanol per year if you consider the carbon emissions through solid wastes, industrial off-gases, and agricultural residues. The country can meet 10% of its sustainable aviation fuel blending goals just by using 5% of the yearly carbon emissions!”
India’s Roadmap For Ethanol Blending 2025
India has set a roadmap to reduce the country’s dependency on fossil fuels by 2025. In this, the nation expects 13,500 million liters of ethanol production by 2025-26 to support the targeted 20% blending. One sure-shot solution to meeting such goals is by harnessing waste resources. We believe that a waste-based aviation industry can potentially help India develop progressive policies to facilitate a successful transition to a sustainable future. Not just that, Ethanol Blended Petrol or EBP can potentially boost the country’s energy security, save foreign exchange, and give the necessary agricultural boost.