By Gift Phiri
Zimbabwe’s state oil company has issued a license to buy ethanol from the Zimbabwe unit of South African firm Tongaat Hulett to be blended with petrol, weeks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for higher use of the sugarcane by-product to help stem a worsening fuel crisis.
Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Zera) has decreed that every litre of fuel sold must be mixed with a percentage of cleaner-burning ethanol, though only about 15 percent blending is done now.
Presidential spokesman George Charamba confirmed to the Daily News that government has okayed ethanol purchases from Triangle, which is wholly-owned by Tongaat, which also has a 50,3 percent stake in Hippo Valley.
The two estates’ sugar mills have a combined milling capacity to crush nearly 5 million tonnes of cane annually and produce over 640 000 tonnes of sugar. Their refining capacity is 140 000 tonnes per annum.
The Triangle mill has a cogeneration plant that produces ethanol using waste biomass called bagasse from sugar production.
Triangle has been exporting ethanol, but has now been given the green light to start supplying fuel grade ethanol to government for blending with petrol.
Charamba said due to the seasonal shortages of ethanol, Triangle was licensed in a bid to improve players in the industry.
“It has been licensed now,” Charamba said.
Asked when this happened, Charamba referred further questions to Gloria Magombo, the Energy ministry secretary who was not immediately available for comment.
“Ahhh, checker naMagombo, it has been licensed,” he told the Daily News.
All along, government has been buying ethanol from local biofuel firm Green Fuel, which runs a $2 billion ethanol project also producing fuel from sugar cane in Chisumbanje, eastern Zimbabwe.
But Green Fuel has been struggling to meet domestic demand.
Zimbabwe plans to eventually increase the blending level amid worsening shortages but does not want to set a timeframe, an Energy ministry official told the Daily News.
The South African sugar and starch producer Tongaat-Hulett still sees its Zimbabwean sugar investment as a sound asset and, despite serious political issues here.
According to its latest results, it said it was pursuing an aggressive expansion drive in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean operation will no doubt benefit from its biofuels spin-off after government okayed this major deal.
*Don’t miss the Daily News on Sunday for an exclusive interview withresidential spokesman George Charamba on the worsening fuel crisis. DailyNews.