Partnership with Brazil helps India advance ethanol roadmap implementation


The public and private sectors of Brazil and India have been working together to develop the Asian country’s production of ethanol, an attempt to reduce pollution and instigate an international market for biofuels.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced recently an advance in the ethanol roadmap, predicting the use of fuel with a 20% ethanol blend by 2023. The notification came as a relief at a moment when several cities across the country have been witnessing both gasoline and diesel being sold at all-time high prices.

India has the second-largest sugar cane production worldwide and a huge potential to produce and consume biofuel. At the same time, 35 out of the 50 most polluted cities in the world are in India – this situation could be eased with the use of greener alternatives.

India could be a significant player fomenting international markets, especially in Asia. Nowadays, Brazil and the U.S. are the main producers and consumers of alternative fuel solutions and could also benefit from this market expansion.

Last year, Brazil and India signed a memorandum of understanding to improve the dialogue for technology transfer. Several other parallel actions have been taking place, such as Ethanol Talks, a technical seminar jointly organized by the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Brazil’s Ethanol Cluster (APLA), the Brazilian Government Ministry of External Relations, Division for Energy Progress (MRE/DEN), and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (APEX-Brasil).

“We hope India can benefit from the use of ethanol in the same way Brazil did, with the improvement of air quality that was observed in big cities in Brazil, such as São Paulo,“ says Dalci Bagolin, Brazilian agricultural attaché in India, who has been following the exchanges in technology.

Sugar cane ethanol is considered a renewable fuel since it eliminates lead compounds from gasoline and reduces noxious emissions. The use of ethanol also reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, once it requires only a small amount of fossil fuels to be produced.

Ethanol has been used as a biofuel in Brazil since 1920 when the country started the first studies on biodiesel. In the 1970s, two programs that aimed to increase the competitiveness of biofuels – the Brazilian Alcohol Program (Proálcool) and the Production Plan of Vegetable Oils for Energy Purposes (Pro-oil) – largely disseminated the use of sugar cane ethanol around the country.

A new milestone for biofuels took place in 2017 when the new National Biofuels Policy (RenovaBio) was instituted, which, in line with the goals established in the Paris Agreement for decarbonization, encourages the inclusion of biofuels in the Brazilian energy matrix and provides for tax incentives that have structured a market for decarbonization credits, which serve as an incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.