Fueling India’s Future: An In-Depth Look At The Ethanol Blending Mandate In The Transport Sector

Posted On - 9 November, 2023 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


In contrast to other renewable energy sources, biomass may be transformed straight into “bio fuels,” or liquid fuels. The two most widely used forms of biofuels today are ethanol and bio diesel, which are both products of the first generation of biofuel technology and are produced from organic materials such as farms, forests, or other organic materials (feed stock). Worldwide, ethanol made from renewable resources is thought to be the most promising and viable replacement for fossil fuels. Raw ingredients derived from diverse renewable resources like as sugarcane, corn, and sweet sorghum are fermented to manufacture it. Ethanol is mainly blended with gasoline in different ratios and commonly known as ‘Gasohol’. Due to this particular use, the amount of ethanol produced worldwide increased by 85% between 2002 and 2006.

[1] Owing to the factors like developing economy, growing population, rapid urbanization, evolving lifestyles, and rising purchasing power, our nation’s energy demand is rising. Fossil fuels presently account for about 98% of the fuel used in the road transport industry, with biofuels making up the remaining 2%[1].

Blending ethanol has several benefits, including increased mix Research Octane Number (RON), oxygen embedded in the fuel, and faster flame speed. These characteristics of ethanol aid in full combustion and lessen the amount of hydrocarbon, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter released by moving vehicles. Ethanol has around two thirds the calorific value of petrol[2]. This suggests that the ethanol-gasoline blend’s heating value drops as its ethanol level rises. Therefore, more fuel is needed to produce the same amount of engine power. But because ethanol has a higher-octane number, running the engine at a high compression ratio won’t cause it to knock. Therefore, ethanol is regarded as an efficient fuel as long as the vehicle is modified appropriately.

The main objectives of the Energy Blending Mandate, a crucial policy initiative, are to reduce India’s reliance on fossil fuels, improve energy security, and mitigate the effects on the environment by encouraging the use of ethanol-blended fuels.


India’s history of blending ethanol is intertwined with the goal to mitigate environmental issues and reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels. Some significant advancements were between 1970’s to 1990’s, that consist of:

Firstly, between 1970–1980, India introduced a concept of combining ethanol,that  became popular in the wake of the 1970s oil crisis. The government started experimenting with gasoline-ethanol mixtures in an effort to lessen the country’s dependency on overpriced imported oil.

Secondly, the government in early 1990s started to investigate ethanol blending. These early initiatives set the stage for the ethanol industry’s eventual expansion.

Over the years, the Indian ethanol market has experienced substantial expansion and advancement. India began to depend on the supply of surplus sugarcane and molasses, a byproduct of sugar, after the 1990s. Furthermore, the government started to encourage the manufacture of ethanol in the early 2000s as a substitute for molasses, which resulted in a change in policy towards a large development of the capacity for ethanol production.

Reasons And Incentives For Putting The Ethanol Blending Mandate Into Practise:

India’s ethanol blending mandate was put into effect due to a number of factors, including the following:

  • The government sought to control this dependence and improve energy security by encouraging ethanol mixing.
  • The transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions might be reduced by using ethanol, a lower-carbon and renewable fuel.
  • The blending mandate would have a positive impact as it might increase farmer income and promote rural development by providing a larger market for surplus crops like sugarcane and grains.
  •  Air pollution and hazardous pollutants can be decreased with ethanol mixing.
  • The mandate’s implementation was further spurred by developments in ethanol production and engine technology, which made blending more effective and efficient.
  • India aimed to develop cleaner and more sustainable fuel sources, such as petrol blended with ethanol, in order to comply with international standards and lessen its influence on the environment.

These factors collectively led to the implementation of the Ethanol Blending Mandate in India. This mandate, issued by the government, set progressive targets to increase the percentage of ethanol mixed with petrol, thereby promoting the use of this sustainable and environmentally friendly fuel.

Objectives And Targets Of The Mandate:

Through the Ethanol Blending Mandate, the Indian government has set clear benchmark, which aimed at encouraging the use of ethanol-blended gasoline throughout the nation.[2] 

  1. E10 Blending: In majority of the nation, the government sought to blend 10% ethanol with petrol (E10). This implied that 10% ethanol would be present in each litre of gasoline.
  2. E20 and Beyond: The government planned to introduce greater ethanol blends, such as E20 (20% ethanol), and even more ambitious targets in the future in certain locations, particularly those with an excess of agricultural produce.

Rationale and Significance of these Targets:

‘Energy Security’ aims to reduce foreign energy dependency, enhancing security against supply disruptions and geopolitical risks.

‘Gas Emissions Reduction’ seeks to combat climate change, curbing greenhouse gas emissions for environmental protection and public health.

In addition, agricultural support ensures food security and eco-friendly farming practices, vital for sustainability.

Economic benefits stimulate growth, employment, and well-being, crucial for policy support.

‘Reduced Fuel Import Costs’ ease financial burdens, promoting economic stability. ‘Consumer Benefits’ offer cost savings and a better quality of life.

‘Future Sustainability’ safeguards future generations’ needs for long-term societal and environmental well-being.

These goals represent a major step in the direction of making India’s transport system more ecologically friendly and sustainable.

Benefits Of Ethanol Blending In Indian Transport:

  • Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emission: Ethanol aids in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions as well as other emissions, since it is a clear burning fuel compared to traditional gasoline and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This supports India’s efforts to control the impact of climate change and lower its carbon footprint.
  • Energy Security: Due to heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels, particularly crude oil, India is susceptible to market fluctuations caused by changes in the price of oil on a global scale. As a biofuel generated domestically, ethanol lessens this reliance, improving energy security and lowering vulnerability to fluctuations in the global oil market.
  • Enhanced Engine Performance: Compared to petrol, ethanol has a higher-octane rating, which enhances engine performance. It lessens engine knocking, which promotes smoother and more effective combustion, extending engine life and improving car performance.
  • Fuel Source Diversification: Using ethanol increases the variety of fuel sources available for transportation. This diversification lowers the nation’s vulnerability to the geopolitical and economic risks connected with the importation of fossil fuels and is crucial for maintaining the stability and resilience of the energy supply chain.

Challenges And Concerns:

  1. Debate on Land Use and Food vs. Fuel:
    • Impact on Food costs: Using agricultural crops (such maize or sugarcane) to produce ethanol may raise food costs, which may have an impact on both accessibility and affordability of food by certain class of people.
    • Resource Allocation: Cultivation of “fuel crops” may lead to a lack of resources available for the cultivation of “food crops”, which could also have an effect on the supply of food.
  2. Standards and Quality of Fuels Blended with Ethanol:
    • Fuel Quality: To safeguard vehicle engines and preserve peak performance, it is essential to guarantee the quality and consistency of ethanol-blended fuels.
    • Accurate blending is necessary to achieve the required percentages of ethanol content and to prevent problems such as phase separation.
  3. Effect on the Automotive Sector:
    • Vehicle Compatibility: In order for older cars to run on fuel combined with ethanol, they may need to be modified. Both car makers and consumers may be concerned about incompatibility.
    • Warranty and Liability: Using higher ethanol mix may result in problems that are not covered by vehicle warranties, which may generate concerns for consumers.

Government Initiatives And Regulatory Framework:

The following are the implementation details and regulatory status:

  1. MoRT&H announced the E5 [blending 5% ethanol with 95% petrol] in 2015[3].
  2. MoRT&H announced the E10 [blending 10% ethanol with 90% petrol] in 2019[4].
  3. The use of E-85 fuel (85% ethanol by volume) for two-, three-, and four-wheeled vehicles[5] were issued.
  4. E20 as a commercial fuel in 2018.
  5. In March, 2021, the Ministry sent out a notification with respect to the adoption of mass emission criteria for E20 fuel[6].
  6. In a subsequent notification the government has notified the Safety Standard (AIS 171) for different ethanol and petrol mixtures. The notification further addresses the following concerns with blended fuel production: 
    • the toxic and carcinogenic nature of pure ethanol, 
    • the necessity of personal protective equipment (PPE) for persons exposed to ethanol at the storage point 
    • the need to have provisions for venting, flame arrestors and foam-based fire extinguishers for fighting ethanol flames. The standard also specifies labels for ethanol blends to be used in vehicles.

Current And Future Status And Progress:

Under the Ethanol Blended fuel (EBP) Programme, the government has started blending ethanol into traditional fossil fuels with the goal of lowering reliance on imports, saving foreign cash, boosting the country’s agriculture industry, and offering related environmental advantages.

In line with the “Road map for Ethanol Blending in India 2020-25,” Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have begun selling E20 (20% ethanol mixed) petrol nationwide, marking the achievement of the 10% ethanol blending target for ESY 2021–2022. Furthermore, by the Ethanol Supply Year (ESY)2025-26, 20% of petrol[7] must contain ethanol, according to the National Policy on Biofuels 2018.


From an Indian standpoint, mixing ethanol in transportation has a number of potential advantages, but there are drawbacks as well. India’s transportation sector can significantly contribute to decreasing the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels, lowering environmental pollution, and fostering economic and agricultural growth through mixing ethanol. Nevertheless, a number of problems must be resolved for it to be implemented successfully, such as feed stock availability, ethanol production and distribution infrastructure, and compatibility with current car engines. Thus, to fully realize the promise of ethanol blending in the transportation sector, a sustainable approach that takes into account the unique needs and limitations of the Indian environment is essential.


What are the prospects for going above E10 in terms of ethanol blending percentage in the future?

Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMC’s) made it possible to reach the target of 10% blending in petrol across the country, the government is further initiating to achieve the target of 20% blending by 2025-2026.

How will the future of ethanol blending in transportation be affected by technological advancements?

(i) Technological advancements have the potential to both increase the availability and improve the viability of ethanol blending in transportation. This advancement can impact not only the production and distribution of ethanol but also the vehicles and engines that use it.u003cbru003e(ii) The future of ethanol in transportation will strictly depend on a combination of technological progress, government policies, consumer preferences, and global marketing dynamics.

What part will consumer acceptance and public knowledge play in the future of ethanol blending in transportation?

A consumer awareness campaign on the advantages/benefits of ethanol blending for the country will encourage car owners to actively participate and facilitate faster implementation.

[1] PPAC’ s Snapshot of India’s Oil and Gas Data, January 2021; https://www.ppac.gov.in/WriteReadData/Reports/202102190444572101992SnapshotofIndia’sOilGasdata,January2021.pdf

[2] GSR 881(E) dated 26.11.2019; https://morth.nic.in/sites/default/files/notifications_document/G.S.R.%20

[3] GSR 412(E) dated 19.05.2015 https://morth.nic.in/sites/default/files/notifications_document/Notification

[4] GSR 881(E) dated 26.11.2019


[5] GSR 682(E) dated 12.07.2016 https://morth.nic.in/sites/default/files/notifications_document/Notification

[6] Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India 2020-255


[7] Ethanol Blending; Mininsty of Petroleum & Natural Gas