Ethanol production grounded


Production at the multi-million-dollar Green Fuel ethanol plant has ground to halt as the company cannot continue producing without a trading licence that allows it to offload the product onto the local market.

Green Fuel is still waiting for a trading licence from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra). The company ceased producing ethanol last week as its storage tanks have been filled to capacity.

The company is holding on to
2 million litres of ethanol at its plant in Chisumbanje. Green Fuel produces 120 000 litres of ethanol per day.

A visit to the plant by NewsDay on Tuesday discovered that machines had been shut down.

Officials said they were expecting to get the licence from Zimra any time this week to enable them to move the ethanol from Chisumbanje to Harare.

Green Fuel applied for the licence in August.

“We are waiting for a licence from Zimra to move the ethanol from here to Harare anytime this week. We applied for a licence to keep the product in bond in Harare,” officials said.

“Officials from the customs and exercise are still working on our application.”

Zimra commissioner-general, Gershom Pasi refused to comment on the trading licence and referred all the question to the communications department.

“Sorry, I am in a meeting, try our communications department and speak to Mudzimu,” Pasi said.
Zimra head of communications, Conrad Mudzimu

had promised to reply but efforts to get a response before going to print were fruitless.

As a result of the halt in production, Green Fuel has taken the opportunity carry out maintenance of the plant.

Officials said if the company is not given the licence soon it would start making losses.

The company employs 4 500 people at its sugar cane plantation and at least 200 people at processing plant.

Green Fuel has changed the lives of many people in Chisumbanje who are now working in the fields and with several small businesses mushrooming around the city.

In September the Ministry of Energy and Power Development held a stakeholder meeting with motor industry and vehicle assemblers to conscientise them on ethanol use.

According to the ministry the industry was receptive and the government planned to introduce the product to the market.

However, the ministry said the industry should understand the properties of the product before the minister cleared the process with Cabinet.

The production of ethanol in the country can resuscitate blending in the country which does not require anything more other than mixing any fuel with ethanol and can be done at service stations.

Green Fuel ethanol plant has a potential to produce 15% of the country’s fuel requirements this year and is expected to increase by 20% and 25% in 2012 and 2013.

Green Fuel has the capacity to produce 1,5 billion litres of ethanol each year with investment and government support.

In 2010 the country’s total oil imports stood at $0,83 billion and expects to spend $1,33 billion this year.

The plant produces 18megawatts of power and it expects to increase the output to 40 megawatts in 2014.

The power that would be produced by the plant is expected to meet Chisumbanje’s power requirements.