Tinashe Makichi Harare Bureau
The government has reduced the mandatory blending level to E5 from E15 after taking into consideration the limited production of ethanol following heavy rains in Chisumbanje.
The government increased the mandatory blending level to 15 percent from 10 percent this year where fuel importers, wholesalers and retailers were told to comply with the mandatory blending regulations.
The introduction of E10 petrol which had a 10 percent ethanol blending was said by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority to have the potential to save the country $4 million monthly from fuel imports at the same time reducing the retail price of the product.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge said although there have been some challenges in terms of ethanol supply; the country has been receiving adequate ethanol for uninterrupted blending at E15. Regrettably, it was not possible to build up ethanol stocks.
With the onset of the rainy season, heavy rains have been falling in Chisumbanje for the past week, rendering the fields inaccessible to cane harvesters due to the wet clay soils. This, in turn, has resulted in reduced production of ethanol.
Once the rains stop and the soils dry up enough, cane harvesting and ethanol production will immediately resume.
Minister Undenge said the current experience may recur during the course of the summer season. In fact, the experience is not peculiar to Zimbabwe but occurs in all ethanol producing countries.
“As a legal requirement, all petrol sold in the country should be blended at a ratio that the Minister responsible for Energy fixes from time to time, on the basis of prevailing conditions.
“Taking into account the limited production of ethanol and the need to ensure uninterrupted deliveries of petrol to service stations countrywide, I, with immediate effect, reduce the mandatory blending level from E15 to E5.”
He said that the position shall be monitored and reviewed in light of any new material developments regarding the production and supply of ethanol.
The Chisumbanje plant, the only licensed supplier of ethanol is currently producing an average 200,000 litres of ethanol per day.
Plans are afoot to raise the daily capacity to 250,000 by year end as the Ministry of Energy and Power Development while the fuel import bill stands at $45 million a month and $540 million annually.