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Ethanol - An Alternative Fuel

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EnvironmentBusPublic Transport

It is heartening to know that KSRTC is testing a bus using ethanol as an alternative fuel to diesel.

The price quoted for ethanol is Rs.22/ltr in this TOI report (Diesel price is quoted as Rs.32-35/ltr). However, in Sweden & other European countries, ethanol is more expensive than diesel, but prices may come down with more vehicles turning to this fuel. Cars that are designed to use ethanol are more expensive than conventional ones, at present. The biggest advantage is that harmful emmissions can be minimized & in certain cases, zero emmisions are being claimed with this alternative fuel.


narayan82's picture


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Myabe this is just my low level of knowledge on this subject - but the article did mention that it was 70% ethanol and 30& water!

How does Water - mix with ethanol and become inflamable?

Or have i mis-understood it.

Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer

Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
flanker's picture

Cost of ethanol

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Article does not mention how ethanol is produced. There is still dispute whether ethanols produced from food grains like corn consumes more energy than it produces.  Input energy for ethanol such as natural gas based fertilizers, equipment, energy for production,  transportation etc will be more than actual engery produced out of burning ethanol. Some argue that corn required to produce ethanol to fillup a tank of SUV can feed a person for year. They even blamed ethanol for food price incease last year.

Rs.22/ltr could be because of the subsidies like fertilizers, electricity to the farmers, equipments taxbreaks to the producers. This may even affect on farming habits and drive up the cost of food.

There are other ways of producing ethanol like Sugar cane (India had bad sugarcane crop this year), and other "cellulosic crops", but not sure if India has all the technologies required to mass produce ethanol. Goodluck with that

idontspam's picture

Green ethanol

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 Input energy for ethanol ... will be more than actual engery produced out of burning ethanol

From a KSRTC frame of reference their carbon credits will definitely be enriched

Nevertheless, this is an ideal candidate for a regulatory standards. It is important to audit and produce specifications on the most green way of producing ethanol. It can be implemented by the Petroleum (sic) ministry as procurement standards for fuel. Like the ingredient and calorie declaration on food items.

Naveen's picture

Ethanol - Another Alternative, At Best

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As of now, similar to Solar, Electric & Biogas, Ethanol is just another alternative worth exploring since certain properties are attractive & fit in with our future requirements for energy.

It would all depend on which one wins the race with availability, development of suitable technologies & standards that are cost-efficient - maybe all will thrive based on geographics, needs, availability, etc..

As of now, developments centered around all these alternatives are very slow. Though oil price is seeing many ups & downs, availability is still not a concern yet & this may be the obstacle to progress in development with these alternatives. US & Chinese (& Indian ?) reluctance to do more for the environment could be another reason.

Narayan - I think ethanol needs dilution since by itself, it maybe a very strong hydro-carbon.

Calorific value of Ethanol

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The framework for promoting alternative fuels like ethanol is misguided.

Firstly, diverting sugar feed stock to ethanol is bound to raise prices for sugar and therefore pinch the poor. Ethanol blending is nothing but a dole to sugar belt farmers.

It is a important dole in the sugar producing regions of Maharashtra and strong man Sharad Pawar's base.

Second, the calorific value and energy density of ethanol is less compared to biodiesel.

Biodiesel (either from jatropha or algae) yields about 33 - 35 MJ (Mega Joules) per Litre equivalent.

Ethanol yield much less at 22 MJ/L.

Blended ethanol and petrol, which is typically in the volumnes of 15% and 85% respectively called as (E15) has a calorific yield of 25 MJ/L

The difference between unblended petrol and pure biodiesel is very minimal compared to the difference between Ethanol and Petrol.

IMO, Governments should concentrate on promoting biodiesel instead of ethanol in view of all the advantages above.

Biodiesel can be generated from wasteland farming of algae or jatropha. It has multiple feedstocks and some of which need to affect our food supplies. comment guidelines

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