In a bid to solve fuel problems permanently in Malawi, Government is leaving no stone unturned, while fossil fuel exploration activities are underway on Lake Malawi and elsewhere, it has been established that plans to turn Malawi into ethanol running country are at advanced stage in the Ministry of Energy.
Energy Affairs Department in the Ministry of Energy confirmed that indeed Government is ahead with plans to make Malawi run on ethanol as opposed to petroleum fuels because of several advantages in using ethanol.
Spokesman in the Department, Joseph Kalowekamo said many developments have already taken place such as a research on ethanol as fuel for vehicles in Malawi, cabinet in 2012 approved the findings which recommended that Malawi would be better off using ethanol as fuel for vehicles and implementation plans were drawn by July 2013, but nothing much has happened since the unveiling of the implementation plans.
The implementation document sourced from the Department says: “The use of locally produced ethanol could replace a significant proportion of petrol resulting in savings in foreign exchange, assist in the development of the Greenbelt Initiative by increasing the hectarage under sugarcane and other crop production as raw materials, agro-processing, and manufacturing, reduce reliance on imported petroleum fuel and shift focus to locally produced fuels resulting in energy security in the long term. “
The document continues saying, “On top of all this, Ethanol produced from sugarcane molasses and other biomass raw materials is classified as a renewable form of energy and therefore reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It also improves urban air quality because it produces lower tailpipe emissions of toxic gases.
“The research results on use of ethanol as vehicle fuel said ethanol increases engine torque (power) as compared to petrol hence allows vehicles to be driven in high gear when ascending steep slopes and results therefore in reduced vehicle fuel running costs.”
The only problem is that price for ethanol fuel is pegged together with petrol which is imported with a negligible difference of K5. Ethanol which is locally produced with very little expenditure in production costs, is surprisingly equated to imported fuel in pricing.
Kalowekamo said that this is one of the issues his Ministry is looking at together with Ministry of finance and he accepted that it is an anomaly.
Currently, the fuel the country uses is a blend of 20% ethanol and 80% imported petroleum fuel but Government approved that the ethanol must dominate in the blend as the country goes towards use of almost 100% ethanol.
Ethanol is currently produced from sugarcane molasses by ETHCO Ltd in Nkhotakota and PRESSCANE Ltd in Chikwawa. Combined annual production from both plants is about 18 million litres against total potential plants capacity of 32 million litres.
Estimated annual fuel requirements for petrol driven vehicles for the country is 198.6 million litres by this year 2015. Maintaining the blending ratio of 20:80 (ethanol/ petrol), then an estimated 37 million litres of ethanol is required to meet the demand for blending this year.
In the implementation document, it was targeted that by this year, 2015 7.5% of vehicles running would be vehicles designed to run on ethanol (through importation and conversion of existing vehicles) then the total ethanol requirement this year would have been 49 million litres.
To meet this target, it was therefore required to increase ethanol production from the current 18 million (though maximum plant production is 32 million litres) to 49 million litres this year.
Unlike Government, which seems to be inactive ever since they unveiled the implementation plan, the private sector is quite ahead as Ethanol Company has disclosed that it is venturing into additional feed stock project to supplement molasses to enable them produce at maximum capacity.
This was disclosed by the production Manager of Ethanol Company, Derek Zamaere. He was speaking recently at a District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting held at Linga EPA in the district.
He said Mini mills will be constructed in the area of Chief Mphonde to process sugarcane into syrup for ethanol production.
During the presentation, Zamaere said the project will assist in job creation to over 500 people, will also increase fuel security in the country, and save on Forex and many other advantages.
“From the earlier study we had, we saw that about 500-600 jobs will be created in agriculture alone, and apart from that, business such as transportation, housing and grocery stores will be attracted, and with such developments the community will definitely benefit a lot,” said Zamaere.
Malawi like Brazil was one of the few countries that started producing ethanol on a commercial scale in the early 1980s. Brazil is now the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel, after the United States of America, because of deliberate government policy to promote increased ethanol use as a fuel. In contrast ethanol production in Malawi has not grown much since commercial production started in 1982. – LINAFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :