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  • Writer's pictureTritech

Environment clearance not required for Distilleries planning to produce up to 50% more ethanol

The environment ministry has decided to waive green clearance requirements for distilleries planning to produce up to 50% more ethanol than their nameplate capacity without increasing pollution.

The decision will enable sugar mills to divert more raw material towards producing ethanol this season, helping them fight sugar supply glut and provide more ethanol for blending with petrol without having to wait for green clearances, which could have taken six months to a year and, in many cases, forced units to miss the opportunity of additional ethanol output this sugar year.

“I’m happy that sugar industry is responding positively to the initiative of central government to encourage ethanol blending as it provides opportunity to diversify and also aids in increasing farmers’ income,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar told.

The country’s sugar industry is facing a glut this season, prompting the government to enhance sugar export subsidy and permit mills to use sugar, sugarcane juice and B-heavy molasses to produce ethanol, which oil marketing companies can buy. Mills could earlier use only C-molasses, which contain comparatively less sugar.

With the use of sugarcane juice and B-heavy molasses, the distilleries are able to produce more ethanol with the same quantum of raw material. But a production that’s higher than the nameplate capacity created a new challenge for mills – the need for a new green clearance.

For capacity expansion, distilleries must obtain environment clearances, which involve public hearing and environment impact assessment and can take up to a year. By waiving off such requirements, the government is aiming to make it easier for industry without hurting the environment.

“Distilleries are not adding any new machinery and equipment. By just switching to richer raw material like sugar cane juice and B-heavy molasses, the same distillery is able to produce more ethanol,” said Avinash Verma, director general of Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), which had been urging the government to waive green clearances requirements.

“The effluent produced in the process is the same or less, and so there is no incremental impact on environment,” said Verma, adding that if there was no additional pollution, then there should be no need to seek a new green clearance.

Mandatory green clearance could have meant distilleries would miss the opportunity to produce more ethanol this year and, therefore, the chance to meet the target of supplying 1.63 billion litres of ethanol to oil marketing companies. About 40% of the total is to be produced using B-heavy molasses and sugar cane juice, Verma said.

“If we have to use sugarcane juice for ethanol, we have to do it only in the crushing season, as the juice can‘t be preserved for more than a day. The crushing season will end by February in Maharashtra and April in Uttar Pradesh,” he said.


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