Zimbabwe’s Biofuel Breakthrough: How a New Plant Could Power the Region

The new facility will increase the country’s ethanol handling capacity by over 100 percent and attract the interest of neighbouring countries.

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe has unveiled a new ethanol storage and handling facility that could revolutionise the energy sector in Southern Africa. The plant, which cost US$7.3 million, was commissioned by President Mnangagwa yesterday in Harare. It will increase the country’s ethanol handling capacity by over 100 per cent, from 5.2 million litres to 11.2 million litres.

Ethanol is a renewable fuel that can be blended with petrol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save foreign currency. Zimbabwe has been using ethanol blending since 2013, with a mandatory ratio of 20 per cent ethanol and 80 per cent petrol. The country produces ethanol from sugarcane, mainly in the Lowveld region.

The new facility, built by the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOIC), has attracted the interest of neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, keen to import fuel from Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa said he had discussed extending the pipeline from Gweru to Botswana and northern South Africa with Presidents Ramaphosa and Masisi.

The plant is part of the Second Republic’s vision to become a land-linked regional hub for fuel distribution in Southern Africa. It is also in line with the national policy on ethanol blending and using cleaner fuels, as well as the Sustainable Development Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy.

The President praised the NOIC for ensuring fuel availability and stability in the country, which has seen a surge in demand due to economic growth. He also commended the company for its corporate social responsibility projects, such as refurbishing schools and offering scholarships to disadvantaged students.

The President urged the energy sector to work as a united team and observe best practices, as the energy, power and biofuel subsectors are critical enablers of sustainable development and prosperity in Zimbabwe.

The new facility is expected to create employment, empowerment and wealth-generation opportunities across the biofuel value chain. It will also reduce the country’s import bill and preserve foreign currency, vital for economic recovery and growth.

Zimbabwe is not the only country in Africa exploring the potential of biofuels. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa has abundant biomass resources that can be used to produce biofuels, such as sugarcane, cassava, sorghum, oil palm and jatropha. However, the continent faces challenges such as lack of infrastructure, financing, technology and policy frameworks.

IRENA estimates that biofuels could meet 27 per cent of Africa’s transport fuel demand by 2050 if the conditions are met. This would reduce the continent’s dependence on fossil fuels and enhance its energy security and environmental sustainability.

Zimbabwe’s new ethanol plant is a step in that direction and could inspire other African countries to follow suit.

Source: The Herald

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