The Green Fuel story: Seeing is believing


THE one-and-half hour flight to Chisumbanje ethanol plant south-east of Harare gives the traveller an aerial view of the potential that Zimbabwe has.
The journey takes one through the highs and the lows of agriculture, the variety of mountainous landscapes dotted along the way, the dry patches, silted rivers and as one gets towards Middle Sabi, the green fields are a marvel to watch, but perhaps not as those in Chisumbanje.
The recently held tour of Green Fuel Factory and its never ending green fields of sugar cane by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcast Services Professor Jonathan Moyo and the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made was an eye opener.
Contrary to some negative media reports, Chisumbanje ethanol plant is perhaps one of the most ambitious projects that Zimbabwe has ever embarked on.
The plant and its supporting structures represent a national project that has been successfully implemented and has a potential of earning the country lots of revenue even from the region.
Ethanol production is no new concept to Zimbabwe with its production evident over 40 years ago for both alcohol and transportation fuel purposes.
From the 1970s to the late 90s, ethanol blends in fuel were between 10-15 percent with Zimbabwe’s vehicles using blends of up to 25 percent without compatibility issues.
A research carried out by the University of Zimbabwe in August 2012 through the Mechanical Engineering Department indicates that “for more than a decade during the 1980s, all petrol sold in Zimbabwe was ethanol petrol blend, with the ethanol percentage sometimes reaching 20 percent.
“It was only the great drought of the early 1990s that stopped the use of blend petrol in Zimbabwe.”
The concept is not new in the world either with world ethanol production for transport fuel having tripled between 2000 and 2007 from 17 billion to more than 52 billion litres.
In 2011, in more than 60 countries, global ethanol production reached 88,8 billion litres representing 500 percent growth since 2000.
As far back as 1908, Henry Ford had designed the first Model T automobiles to run on ethanol.
Many countries all over the world currently run on ethanol blends with mandatory ethanol blend levels including Argentina with E5, Brazil E25, China E10, Thailand E20, Malawi E10 and USA E10-15 among others.
The E85 is most popular in Brazil, USA, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, UK, Thailand and China, among other countries.
Ethanol blends with diesel are already available with Scania in South Africa already running on ethanol/diesel blend.
Compatible vehicles include Honda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Peugeot, Toyota, Volvo and Volkswagen, among others.
What was the noise to shutdown a US$60million plant resulting in losses of thousands of jobs?
“I travelled to Brazil over 10 times before setting up the plant and we have not yet finished paying back the loan we were given,” said Billy Rautenbach, the major shareholder.
According to Agricultural and Rural Development Authority chairman, Bezzel Nyabadza, the Green Fuel project is an example of the sound leadership the country has.
“Ethanol production is competition to the normal existing way of bringing fuel into our economy,” he said.
“Yesterday we had names like Shell, BP, Mobil and Caltex, but today we have names like Sakunda, Redan, Zuva and Engen.
“When you go back behind those names we still have two critical players (trafigura and glenco) who were the foundation of fuel importation into the country.
“There has been a change in colours, but the reality is that Zimbabwe has still been underpinned by the British and Swiss.
“Zimbabwe is the only country where the US dollar is exchanged at the garages.
“In a way, we have attracted oil barons to Zimbabwe to offer enormous challenges to Green Fuel which is trying to profer a home grown solution to energy.”
Minister Moyo said, “There is nothing that beats experience and the reality on the ground and letting that reality speak for itself.
“It is a compelling story about the wellbeing of a community that has turned the livelihoods of people and contributing a very critical element of Zim-ASSET.
“Green Fuel is an initiative not only in the context of Zim-ASSET, but in the overall economic development of our country with a fundamental developmental impact.”
Dr Made on the other hand said, Green Fuel had engaged the small-holder irrigation schemes in Middle Sabi who are growing horticultural produce which is being taken as far as Bulawayo.
“We will not allow any imports so that we resuscitate and re-establish cash crops,” said Dr Made.
“The Brazilian technology at Green Fuel has called upon Zimbabweans to first learn the technology even though they went to learn from there.”
Brazil’s extensive use of ethanol which is over 30 years of experience in ethanol production and a leader in world sugar production is perhaps the most ambitious and successful initiative developed to date and a lesson for Zimbabwe to follow.
Knowing that we today are watching the soccer World Cup in Brazil, it is merely not just soccer, but financial opportunities, exchange programmes that could turn our country into such a big economy.
Green Fuel’s 2020 vision of being Zimbabwe and Africa’s leading supplier of a dependable source of high quality, competitively priced, renewable, anhydrous ethanol is the way to go and such initiatives that have a potential to grow should be the way to go.
The Chisumbanje project has the capacity to produce 120 million litres of high quality, anhydrous ethanol per annum sustainable for blending in petrol vehicles up to 20 percent (E20) or use in flex fuel vehicles (E85).
It has also the capacity to generate 18MW of power rising to 86MW and surplus channeled to the national grid.
What is more welcome is that over 70 percent of the parts at the Chisumbanje ethanol plant have been manufactured locally and 80 percent of these parts can be produced locally for the next installation.
The story behind Green Fuel is one that speaks volumes of a revolution.


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