Skip to main content

Govt of India's 'inadequate' effort to reduce import dependence on crude, natural gas

By NS Venkataraman* 

India is now having unsustainable level of import dependence on crude oil and natural gas, with the domestic production remaining virtually stagnant and growth rate in demand and import level of crude oil and natural gas steadily increasing at 6 to 7% per annum. It is a matter of extreme urgency that the import level of crude oil and natural gas must be curtailed to a significant extent.
The dGovernment of India is now implementing four major strategies for overcoming the import dependence on crude oil and natural gas.
  1. Promotion of renewable energy
  2. Blending of ethanol with petrol
  3. Promotion of electric vehicles
  4. Promotion of hydrogen economy
While the above four strategies are important and the Government of India is striving it’s level best to implement the above strategies, the question is whether the above strategies are adequate considering the present and futuristic scenario. It appears that they are not.

Promotion of renewable energy

The Government of India has now raised the target for renewable energy to 500 GW to be achieved by 2030.
Solar remains the mainstay of the renewable new capacity addition and 3,709 MW was added during Q1 of this fiscal , as compared to 2,249 MW in the year ago quarter. During this June quarter, the wind power segment added 430 MW (240 MW in the year ago quarter) of new capacity.
It is expected that the renewable energy capacity addition in this fiscal will be around at 15 to 16 GW, given the strong project pipeline of about 50 GW. Overall, the growth prospects in the renewable energy sector over the long term remain good , with the supportive policy of the government as well as significantly improved tariff competitiveness of both solar and wind energy.
However, the basic issue with the renewable power is the uncertainty of power generation from time to time due to vagaries of monsoon and climatic conditions. As a result, the capacity utilisation of renewable power sector is unlikely to exceed 20% on an average in a year.
Likely total peak hour demand for power by the year 2030 would be around 320 GW.
Considering 500 GW of renewable power capacity by the year 2030 and considering average capacity utilisation of 20%, the renewable power available by the year 2030 would be 100 GW.
Balance peak hour demand to be met by power generation using fossil fuel in 2030 would be 220 GW.
Therefore, while renewable power would certainly help , it would not help adequately to significantly reduce the dependence on fossil fuel based power to curtail the import of crude oil and natural gas.

Ethanol blending

The Government of India is putting up massive efforts to increase the production of ethanol and has fixed the target of 20% blending of ethanol with petrol by the year 2025.
Ethanol producers are encouraged to use grain such as maize, rice also as feedstock, which are essentially food crops. Grains can be the feedstock for the production of starch and there is huge opportunities in India to produce starch based chemicals such as citric acid, L-Lysine and others and most of such chemicals are now completely imported in huge quantity.
There is urgent need to set up several starch based projects in the country . In such conditions, diverting starch for the production of ethanol instead of starch based products, which can be substitute for petrochemicals , may not be appropriate. This policy approach has been criticised by experts.
The Government has approved around 368 projects for setting up of new distilleries/ expansion of existing distilleries, based on sugarcane juice, B heavy and C heavy molasses, maize, damaged food grains and rice.
Considering 80% capacity utilisation, the production of ethanol by 2025 could be around 1200 crore litre if total capacity of 1500 crore litre per annum were to be built up by 2025.
The estimated requirement of ethanol under the Ethanol Blending programme could be around 1700 crore litre per annum.
Likely consumption of petrol by the year 2030 without considering ethanol blending with petrol and considering growth rate in demand of 7% per annum would be around 49 million tonne.
Considering 20% ethanol blend with petrol, the requirement of petrol to be made available by utilising fossil fuel in 2030 would be around 39 million tonne.
It is likely that India will be able to achieve 20% ethanol blending with petrol in the coming years . However, this is unlikely to reduce the present level of use of petrol significantly, since the demand for petrol would steadily increase year after year at 6 to 7% per annum.

Promotion of electric vehicles

By promoting the shift from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to Electric Vehicle (EVs), Government of India not only hopes to significantly cut emissions and meet its international obligations but also reduce import of fuel (crude oil and natural gas) and improve the nation’s energy security.
Government wants to have EV sales accounting for 30% of private cars, 70% for commercial vehicles and 80% for two- and three-wheelers by 2030.
Number of vehicles on road ( all types) by 2030 considering 7% growth rate per annum would be around 580 million.
Considering production of 0.9 million electric vehicles (all types) in 2021 and considering 25 to 30% growth per annum in the production of electric vehicles , the total number of electric vehicles in 2030 would be around 10 million.
Number of vehicles on road excluding electric vehicles in the year 2030 to be run with petrol, diesel or LPG would be still very large.
The large promotion of EV vehicles will only help in meeting the growth in the future need for transportation to some extent ,as increase in demand for transportation would continue at 6 to 7% per annum EVs cannot reduce the present consumption of crude oil and natural gas in India to any significant level.

Hydrogen economy

The current consumption of hydrogen in India is about 5.6 million tonne per annum and almost all of it comes from the ‘steam methane reforming’ process, which emits the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
So, today, if the country were to replace all the hydrogen in use with green hydrogen, the demand for green hydrogen would be around 5.6 million tonne per annum.
To produce this much, quantity electrolyser capacity of more than 110 GW is required . roughly, (the production of one tonne per annum of green hydrogen requires 18GW of electrolyser capacity), which in turn require 25GW of renewable power.
NITI Aayog does not seem to have meaningful steps to push forward with schemes to promote algae biofuel and dimethyl ether
It will be necessary to build facilities at the scale of hundreds of megawatts which would be 10 times the size of pilot projects currently operating in Europe.
The nature of hydrogen, with its complex processing plants, pressurized pipelines and storage facilities, and the specialized tankers required for distribution, provides formidable challenge in utilising hydrogen energy.
While giant projects may be built for green hydrogen in future, there is a long way to go before they are proved to be commercially viable.

Algae biofuel

Algae is the third generation biofuel and can be n ideal solution for India’s impending fuel crisis, as India’s long coastal region and tropical climate can facilitate the cultivation of algae in India in mass scale.
Algae is a quick growing crop and contains around 25% oil. Oil can be extracted from algae and subjected to transesterification to produce biofuel . The residual mass after extraction of oil can be subjected to fermentation to produce ethanol and methane ( natural gas). Methane can be used to produce power.
Algae industry is an elegant combination of agricultural and industrial activity and products that can pave way for win win situation.
Algae needs only marshy land and waste land which are available in plenty in India. It requires only carbon dioxide, good sun shine and poor quality of water.
The several advantageous salient features of algae in Indian conditions include the following:
  • The country’s enormous diversity
  • Vast coastline
  • Sufficient solar energy
  • Does not compete with food crops for land availability
Several integrated facilities can be set up all over India particularly in coastal regions to cultivate algae and produce algae fuel and other products.
This is an opportunity that India is ignoring.

Dimethyl ether

Dimethyl ether is a fuel that can be used alone or blended with LPG for use as domestic and industrial fuel. DME is extensively produced in China and other countries.
By setting up several DME projects in India of economic size, import of crude oil/natural gas/LPG can be reduced to a considerable extent.
DME is an eco-friendly fuel produced from methanol. The requirement of methanol can be met by import, until such time that domestic methanol capacity would be built up using coal or other feedstock.
Alternately, India can set up methanol project in natural gas rich countries such as Trinidad and Tobago or Iran and the methanol can be transported to India to produce DME.
Several DME plants of economic capacity of one lakh per annum can be set up in different parts of the country.
DME project of economic capacity will need an investment of around Rs 100 crore.


In addition to the strategies that the Government of India is now actively implementing to reduce the import of crude oil and natural gas, urgent steps should be taken to set up several algae fuel projects and DME projects in India.
The NITI Aayog has made reference about the importance of these two projects but does not seem to have taken any meaningful steps to push forward with the schemes.
Algae biofuel project and DME project are economically and technically viable and commercially proven technologies for licencing are available abroad.
Both these projects require strong focus from the Prime Minister’s office just as focus given to other projects like ethanol blending, hydrogen economy and others.
Let not India lose further time and opportunity.
*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai



Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Kailash Satyarthi NGO makes slum kids laud RSS founder Hedgewar as freedom fighter

By Rajiv Shah  In a move which may raise many an eyebrow, a Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported child rights NGO has celebrated Prime Minister Narendra Modi-intitiated Har Ghar Tiranga by commemorating 75 freedom fighters by "narrating their famous deeds and chanting slogans of each leader", including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai and a person who had little or nothing common with the freedom movement -- RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. A communique from the Kailash Satyarthi Childrens Foundation (KSCF), which organised the event, said among the freedom fighters celebrated by 75 children on the occasion of 75 years of India's independence placing photographs of each freedom fighter included that of Hedgewar, who is alleged to have maintained a distance from Indian Independence movement led by Gandhiji. According to Hedgewar's biography, when Gandhiji launched the Salt Satyagraha in 1930, Hedgewar sent information ev

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Gujarat's 'low-key' communalism: right-wing groups compete for anti-Muslim space

By Rajiv Shah  Noticing the emergence of a novel trend, a just-released report based on a fact-finding team's observations following its interaction in particular with Hindu and Muslim political activists, administrators and police officials, has claimed that a major reason why chasm between the two communities in Gujarat has lately reached new heights is, a veritable competition between Hindu right-wing groups and leaders to capture the existing communal space. Titled "Hindu Right, Communal Riots and Demolitions: Emerging Pattern of Communal Riots in India", the report has been prepared against the backdrop of what it calls "low intensity" communalism which has characterised rioting in Gujarat in the recent past, especially after the 2002 communal carnage, one of the worst in Independent India. Especially focusing on riots in two Gujarat towns, Himmatnagar and Khambhat, which took place on April 10, the day clashes broke also out in different parts of India on

Gujarat govt 'contradicts' MHA memo while freeing Bilkis Bano gangrape convicts

By Our Representative  The All-India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah "must answer for the decision to free Bilkis Bano's gang rapists." In a statement, AIPWA has wondered, "What was the basis of the Gujarat Government’s decision to free those men on August 15, 2022, to celebrate what the PM Modi calls India’s Amrit Kaal? Was remission and freedom a reward for rape and murder of Muslims?" The statement comes amidst an Ahmedabad-based legal rights non-pofit, which took up the cause of Bilkis Bano and fought her case right up to the Supreme Court, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), suggesting that the Gujarat government move to allow remission to the convicts contradicts the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Guidelines for Granting Special Remission to Prisoners on August 15, 2022 (75th anniversary of Independence), January 26, 2023, and again on August 15, 2023. Citing the MHA notificat

Need to ask at today's 'critical juncture' of India's history: Whose Freedom@75?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  The official propaganda states that: “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence and the glorious history of it's people, culture and achievements. This Mahotsav is dedicated to the people of India who have not only been instrumental in bringing India thus far in its evolutionary journey but also hold within them the power and potential to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of activating India 2.0, fuelled by the spirit of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The official journey of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav commenced on 12th March 2021 which started a 75-week countdown to our 75th anniversary of independence and will end post a year on 15th August 2023.” So as India completes a landmark seventy-five years of freedom – a platinum jubilee – the only question one needs to ask at this critical juncture of the country’s history is “whose freedom@75?” Since March 2020, it has been a di

Har ghar tiranga: will the hungry bellies raise their hand to unfurl the national flag?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians are going to unfurl the tricolour to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India's Independence on 15th of August 2022. Indian freedom struggle has not only shaped India as a modern constitutional democracy but also shaped the nature of state, society and citizenship. The anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggle were the four pillars of Indian freedom struggle that laid the foundation of a sovereign nation state promised to pursue a society based on socialist, scientific and secular values to ensure egalitarian citizenship rights without any form of discrimination. These inalienable values are central to the unity, integrity, peace, prosperity and progress of India as a multicultural society and secular state. It is time to celebrate these values and promises of Indian independence, a product of struggles and sacrifice of millions of working-class people across the country. India at 75 is still a young nation but old e

RSS, Sangh Parivar consider tricolour as "state flag" and not "national flag"

By Teesta Setalvad* Today, when the nation has been independent for 67 years, the Sangh Parivar is set to launch ‘Tiranga yatras’ and Satyagrahas to defend the honour of the flag and the nation. Yet when the Indian people were involved in the decades-long struggle for freedom against British imperialism, the RSS was conspicuous by its absence in the struggle. When thousands of people faced lathis, bullets and jail sentences for hoisting the tiranga and participated all over the country in satyagraha during the Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements against the British Raj, the Sangh publicly took the stand that it would not take part in the movement and seldom missed the opportunity of assuring the British rulers that they would keep to the right side of colonial law and avoid any clash with the authorities. Of course the reason given for this was that the Sangh was secretly strengthening itself and would take on British imperialism only when it was strong enough to do so! A simil