Oliver Kazunga recently in Chisumbanje
ZIMBABWE’S largest ethanol producer, Green Fuel has installed two storage tanks with combined storage capacity of 13 million litres as the company moves to boost production and guarantee adequate supply during the rainy season.
Of late, the company has been failing to meet ethanol demand during the rain season as sugarcane fields become impossible and difficult for machinery to operate during harvesting.
The company produces ethanol , which the country uses in blending petrol with the net effect of reducing Zimbabwe’s fuel import bill.
Fuel is among the major imports driving the import bill.
At the moment, Zimbabwe’s fuel blending stands at 15 percent and the Government intends to raise the blending ratio to 20 percent, the highest possible in Zimbabwe. In Sadc, the maximum fuel blending ranges between 5 percent and 30 percent.
Increased blending of unleaded petrol will help reduce imports at a time global prices have hit record highs amid constrained demand due to supply constraints emanating from western sanctions on major producer, Russia, over its special military operation in Ukraine.
In an interview after touring Green Fuel’s sugarcane plantations and ethanol plant in Chisumbanje last Thursday, Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda said: “Currently, the production of ethanol is sustaining the levels at which blending is taking place because we are at 15 percent blending.
“Of course, we envisage to move to 20 percent, which is the highest level to which blending can take place here in Zimbabwe and the discussions that we held with Green Fuel indicate that their production levels are also picking up and by end of August they envisage to have gotten to 450 000 litres per day and which we think with the capacity that is done by FCZ in Triangle that can sustain blending at 20 percent.”
He added that at prevailing blending levels, the production was meeting the demand as for ethanol was presently at 300 000 litres a day which Green Fuel is able to supply.
“So, people must not panic and we intend to continue blending for the reasons that we have always spoken about and you know this is green fuel and it’s environmentally friendly and we are also able to contain prices.
“l think you have noticed in the past that petrol used to be the dearest of the two fuels, but because of blending where ethanol is going for about US$1,10 and our unleaded petrol is around US$1,70, so whenever you increase the level of blending and you are blending with a product which is cheaper you are also ultimately reducing the prices that you are offering on the market,” said Minister Zhemu.
He said the Government shall always be keeping an eye on ethanol production so that the targeted 20 percent blending is achieved.
The Government, Minister Soda said, was excited by the purity levels of ethanol from Green Fuel, which was at 99,9 percent.
“We went through the ethanol production plant and we were shown the purity levels of the ethanol that is being produced, about 99,9 percent pure.
“And it shows that ethanol can be safely used in our vehicles without any challenges as opposed to what we normally hear from the corridors where people perceive that ethanol can be so dangerous to the functioning of their vehicles,” he said.
In a separate interview, Green Fuel managing director Mr Conrad Rautenbach said in the rainy season they always have a challenge that results in suspension of production.
“That is always the challenge, we stop harvesting and we stop the factory during the rainy season.
“So, the big tanks that you saw behind us, we have installed them each with six and half million litres and this year we are installing a third one with another six and half million litres.
“The idea is to increase production and store the ethanol and then we can carry on supplying during the off crop for the rain season, so that’s what we are doing to have consistent supply year around,” he said.
Green Fuel’s current production ranges between 380 000 litres and 400 000 litres of ethanol per day and the company intends, in the next couple of weeks, to raise the figure to 450 000 litres per day, which is the plant’s installed capacity.
“Production is good, we have a good crop of sugarcane, the yields are good and the cane is starting to ripen now as we go into the colder months.
“We’re looking good for a strong season this year,” said Mr Rautenbach.
This year Green Fuel has 12 000ha of sugarcane under irrigation and the company plans to do an extra 1 000ha of additional crop.
“Every year we are expanding, last year we did an additional 900ha of land under sugarcane,” he said.
The firm employs an estimated 3 000 workers and the figure varies from time to time because the nature of the business activity is seasonal.”
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