Innocent Ruwende and Columbus Mabika
Government has increased the mandatory blending of unleaded petrol from five percent ethanol to 10 percent with immediate effect.
This was announced in a extraordinary Government Gazette published yesterday under the Petroleum Act (Chapter 13:22): Exempting from Levels of Mandatory Blending of Anhydrous Ethanol with Unleaded Petrol Notice 2019.
“It is hereby notified in terms of Section 4(1) of the Petroleum Mandatory Blending of Anhydrous Ethanol with Unleaded Petrol Regulations 2013, published in Statutory Instrument 17 of 2013, as amended by Statutory Instrument 17 of 2014, the minister approves the current level of mandatory blending to 10 per centum.
“The consequences of this approval is that all licensed operators shall from the date of publication of the general notice be mandated to sell unleaded petrol blended at E10,” read the SI.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) chief executive Engineer Eddington Mazambani said until January, fuel was blended by 15 percent ethanol, but was reduced to five percent between February and March because of a shortage of the blend.
“The country had a low ethanol supply and Government reduced the blend level to five percent. Because of the improved availability, Government has increased the level to 10 percent. This increase will obviously impact on our fuel import bill, although in a minimal way,” said Eng Mazambani.
Government introduced fuel blending in 2008 following the licensing of Green Fuel’s Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant, which resumed operations in 2013.
The measure was meant to avert fuel shortages and curb the high fuel import bill.
Mandatory blending currently stands at 15 percent, but Government has previously been forced to lower the ethanol threshold to five percent due to its unavailability on the market.
Blending of fuel is exclusively conducted by licensed blenders only and currently there are 11 such licensees who abide and comply with Zera regulations, said Mr Mazambani.
Five of the 11 fuel dealers licensed to blend petroleum products have blending depots in Harare and Bulawayo and the service stations can acquire either already blended or not blended fuel from National Oil Company of Zimbabwe which they then blend.
Mr Mazambani said Zera consistently conducts routine infrastructural and quality inspections at each blending site and fuel service stations across the country.
Green Fuel, on its part, has been increasing its capacity so as to meet demand.
In an interview with The Herald last year, Mr Conrad Rautenbach of Green Fuel said the company was growing its capacity from 40 million litres in 2016, 56 million litres in 2017 and 75 million litres in 2018.
“These increased yields equated to a 40 percent increase in ethanol production, from 40 million litres of ethanol in 2016, to 56 million litres in 2017,” said Mr Rautenbach then.
“We expect to increase our production to approximately 75 million litres this year. Our yields should remain consistent and with the additional cane we have planted, we are confident that we will be able to reach this prediction. We are in the process of planting an additional 1 500ha of sugar cane in order to increase our production by a further 20 percent, to 90 million litres in 2019,” he said.