USGC: Study finds market potential for ethanol in India

By U.S. Grains Council | August 17, 2021

Conclusions of a recently released study show growing ethanol use in India has been linked to increased demand for sanitation products during the COVID-19 pandemic, more ambitious blending targets – now 20 percent by 2023 – and interest from Indian companies in sustainability through biobased products from ethanol’s chemical derivatives. The study, commissioned by the U.S. Grains Council, underscores the industrial and fuel market opportunities in the country.

In the 2020 marketing year, the United States continued to be the largest supplier of industrial ethanol to India, exporting nearly 183 million gallons as domestic producers focused on supplying the fuel and potable markets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, industrial ethanol consumption in India also increased for purposes including sanitizers and disinfectants. As vaccination rates rise, the domestic use of fuel ethanol is expected to return to pre-pandemic level growth rates.

However, fuel is the primary end-use of ethanol in India, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the ethanol market in 2020, with industrial use making up 21 percent. The country recently accelerated its efforts to reach E20 blending by 2023. In 2020, the Government of India (GOI) expanded the scope of its ethanol blending program to include sugarcane juice and spent grains as feedstocks for ethanol production to meet these goals. Lower carbon intensity biofuels such as corn-based ethanol will be preferred in the transportation sector. India’s 2021 average blending rate is estimated at 7.5 percent.

“We are looking to expand ethanol use globally for fuel and industrial applications,” said Brian Healy, USGC director of global ethanol market development. “This is another example of our efforts around the world to better understand how industrial applications can be expanded in what is already an important market.”

The study also found that companies are beginning to capitalize on India’s existing bio-ethanol chemical derivatives business. While its existing chemical business is small, some companies have launched the country’s first plant-based consumer goods. Other organizations have also collaborated with companies to develop bio-based textiles. Ethanol can also be found in personal care product formulations.

The industrial market accounted for nearly 50 percent of the total U.S. ethanol export market share during the height of the pandemic. Still, fuel demand continues to recover and accounts for the lion’s share of ethanol exports today. As part of its global ethanol market development efforts, the Council seeks to analyze ways to diversify the industrial ethanol market and determine the global market potential for other applications of ethanol-based products.

“Organic growth will continue to drive demand in Indian and other markets for industrial applications. We are trying to determine what additional demand can be unlocked for new uses,” said Healy.

Read more about the Council’s ethanol work in India.