THE Chisumbanje ethanol plant management has targeted April 2015 for the introduction of E20 fuel blending subject to requisite investment, an official with the company has said.
Green Fuel – which is a joint venture between the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and Billy Rautenbach’s Macdom and Ratings — is among the pioneering large-scale ethanol producing plants in Africa and presently the largest on the continent.
Arda board chairman Basil Nyabadza said although the attendant investment for this process was an issue of concern, demand for the product was very high.
“There is need to plan and synchronise production, milling, purification and other processes across the value chain,” he said adding that by April next year, the plant would be able to produce E20.
Fuel blending commenced at 5% ethanol and 95% unleaded petrol last year, following the issuance of an ethanol production and mandatory blending licence to Green Fuel earlier on.
The blending mix then increased to 10% and is currently at 15%.
The proponents of the project argue that the Chisumbanje plant has capacity to produce 120 million litres of anhydrous and high quality ethanol per year suitable for blending with petrol for vehicles up to (E20) or use in flex fuel vehicles (E85).
Nyabadza said presently the joint venture is harvesting from the middle Sabi and there are economies of scale while another key issue is about off take in dollar terms.
“Strategic industries require national support not politics which has people who are bent on protecting their own interests,” he said.
He said there are some fuel cartels which have been operating for a very long time that do not want to see the emergence of local initiatives that pose a threat to their business’ profits.
“Zimbabwe is attracting another type of investor who prefers to deal with government rather than the private sector, in so doing undermining the national agenda through political connections,” he said.
Nyabadza pointed out that ever since the plant began full scale operations, besides creating employment opportunities for local people, the nation was saving $300 000 a day in fuel imports.
A number of local vehicle assemblers have said that they would give warranties limited up to E10 blending.