NEW DELHI: 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 ET. “This decision has been taken in view of ensuring ‘ease of doing business’.”

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.

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