The blues of the green: How can biofuel be used


  • In August, SpiceJet operated a test flight (a Bombardier Q400 flight) from Dehradun to Delhi, which partially used biojet-fuel. The flight, which carried 28 people, used 75% of the regular ATF (aviation turbine fuel) and 25% of biojet fuel made from the jatropha plant.


  • Biofuel is good news for human kind, as it helps the environment and also the aviation industry, which is battling exorbitant aviation fuel prices.
  • It is made from any plant or animal material and thus becomes an alternate energy source.
  • While CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP) is using jatropha seed oil for its biofuel, other tree-borne oils — Nahor Oil from the North-east, Sapium Oil from the Himalayan region; waste cooking oil, mustard family non-edible rotation crops are also promising feed stocks.

Green Aviation biojet-fuels:

  • Green Aviation biojet-fuels contribute around 80% reduction in the carbon footprint of the aviation industry and are a potential offset for CO2 emissions in the aviation industry.
  • To meet the goals of ICAO’s (International Civil Aviation Organisation) CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), and the demand for green fuels by international airlines, adequate availability and mechanisms for distribution of these fuels need to be made by Indian International Airports.
  • This would make Indian airports a more attractive hub for international airlines, who have signed the global aviation biofuels CORSIA agreement.
  • In 2016, members of the Council of ICAO adopted the global scheme CORSIA, to cut down aviation emissions. 

Internationally carbon emissions:

  • Internationally carbon emissions in the environment from aeroplanes, amount to 2%, which is all the more harmful at high altitudes. Biofuel will hopefully help eliminate this. However, there are still challenges. Internationally, the industry is working towards finding solutions.
  • One of the problems with biofuel is this: the aircraft’s engines have to provide inflow of fuel (fossil fuel), at a specific calorific value.
  • The cost of producing biofuel is higher than that of standard fuel. The experiments done so far have been to mix it in a limited way. So, sustainability and cost become major issues.
  • We need to solve the storage problem of the fuel, which is at the second stage of experimentation now.

The India story…

  • First, we have to scale up production, and then see how other modes of transportation respond to it; then we can use it for aircraft. The countries which are very aggressive in the use of biofuel — Australia and Canada — are both agriculture-based economies. Here’s the picture in our country.
  • India is deficient in the production of fossil fuel, and has an advantage with biofuel because of its huge agricultural base. However, we still need a commercial set-up for it.
  • While the Government of India has a biofuel policy for the aviation sector, they haven’t come out with a biofuel policy for the rest. Unless we start using biofuel in other modes of transportation, doing it just for the aviation sector will be difficult. That way, the scale of production will go up, you will gain experience, and you can see how it behaves.

National policy on biofuels

  • This year, the Cabinet approved a national policy on biofuels, which was initially announced in 2009. The policy stressed on the development and utilisation of indigenous non-food feedstocks, research, processing and production of biofuels and a blending mandate of 20% ethanol and bio-diesel by 2017.

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