Working Paper

The potential for advanced biofuels in India: Assessing the availability of feedstocks and deployable technologies

Alternative fuels Life-cycle analyses

India’s 2018 National Policy on Biofuels sets ambitious biofuel targets of 20% ethanol blending and 5% biodiesel blending, both by 2030, and aims to source these biofuels only from sustainable feedstocks that do not threaten food security. This is admirable and prudent from an environmental perspective, but also suggests that meeting the targets will require India to establish a large, domestic advanced biofuels industry in a decade.

This working paper estimates the potential advanced biofuel production in India from a feedstock-availability and infrastructure-deployment perspective. The authors draw upon activity data for relevant economic sectors to estimate both the total feedstock potential eligible for India’s biofuel policy and the share of that feedstock that is sustainably available. Moreover, the paper evaluates the technological potential for converting each feedstock, in order to estimate the quantity of liquid biofuels that could be produced by 2030.

As the table below shows, the theoretical potential based on feedstock availability is sufficient to meet the targets. However, high upfront costs and the time it takes to establish new supply chains, deploy pilot conversion facilities, and then scale up to commercial biorefineries means that the estimated blend levels in 2030 are likely to fall short of the targets, even with strong policy support. The primary barrier to advanced biofuel deployment in India by 2030 is the pace of deployment of large, commercial-scale advanced biorefineries.