The Indian government began promoting the use of bio-fuels in 2009. The initiative gathered momentum after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Ethanol blending helped India save $597 million last year

New Delhi — India aims to set up 12 bio-fuel refineries in a bid to reduce oil imports by $1.74 billion through an increased use of bio-fuels, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday.

The South Asian nation, which imports up to 80 percent of its oil needs, will spend $1.5 billion on setting up these refineries that are expected to employ around 15,000 people. Prime Minister Modi said that ethanol blending helped the country save $597 million last year.

"We will produce 450 crore liters of ethanol in the next four years from the existing 141 crore liters. It will result in import savings of $1.74 billion," Modi said while addressing an event in New Delhi to mark World Biofuel Day.

The government will achieve 10 percent ethanol blending in petrol by 2022 and aims to double it to 20 percent by 2030, Modi added. So far, India has allowed for the blending of up to 10 percent ethanol extracted from sugarcane in gasoline, but supplies remain a concern. 

The Indian government, in May this year, approved a new policy expanding the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing the use of sugarcane juice, sugar-containing materials like sugar beet, sweet sorghum, starch-containing materials like corn, cassava, damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, and rotten potatoes that are unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.