China to expand nationwide use of ethanol-blended gasoline by 2020

China plans to expand the use of ethanol in gasoline nationwide by 2020 to help improve air quality as well as reduce demand for fossil fuels, according to state media.

This is the first time that the central government has established a timeline for introducing E10, gasoline blended with 10% ethanol, although a formal policy has yet to be announced. Ethanol mandates are currently set at a provincial level. The move doubles up as part of the government’s effort to boost industrial demand for corn. China is said to have built up state corn reserves of about 200 million tonnes, which is enough to feed the country’s 1.4 billion population for more than a year.

The news comes after the central government announced last year that it would aim to double ethanol output by 2020. The Xinhua report said the government aims to build an ethanol production base in the northeast, China’s main corn growing region.

This latest move could revolutionise China’s fledging biofuels industry. More than 10 new ethanol plants are being planned in the northeast , according to Shanghai-based JC Intelligence Co. Ltd. China’s use of renewable-based fuel lags behind the rest of the world, with only 3 million tonnes in 2016 or less than 1% of total fuel consumption.

The report also stated that the government aims to have large-scale domestic production of cellulosic ethanol, produced from non-food sources such as grass, tree and crop waste, by 2025. Plans call for China to develop a demonstration facility by 2020 that can produce 50,000 tonnes of cellulosic ethanol a year, according to the National Energy Administration.

China is currently the world’s third-largest ethanol producer, producing about 2.1 million tonnes a year. China started producing ethanol from corn in 2004, but banned the use of food crops in 2007. About one-fifth of gasoline currently produced in China contains ethanol, according to Xinhua.