Ethanol Project Background

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Malawi like Brazil was one of the few countries that started producing ethanol on a commercial scale in the early 1980s. Brazil is now the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel (because of deliberate government policy to promote increased ethanol use as a fuel), whereas ethanol production in Malawi has not grown since commercial production started in 1982. Malawi has no known petroleum fuel reserves and continues to rely mainly on imported petroleum fuel products (with small portion being met by locally produced ethanol) as source of energy for motor vehicles. Malawi however has the potential for increased ethanol production to replace a portion of the imported fuel. In order to promote increased ethanol use as a motor vehicle fuel the Ethanol Driven Vehicle Project (EDVP) “assessment of the use of ethanol as an alternative vehicle fuel to petrol in Malawi” was initiated in 2006 after a Cabinet directive in 2004 that Malawi should explore other sources of fuel for vehicles. The projected was completed in 2011 and following Cabinet approval of the recommendations of the research project; the country is geared up to implement a Malawi Ethanol Programme. The recommendations made to Cabinet for approval in the project were as follows:

  • Government should put in place appropriate measures and incentives to increase ethanol production to meet future demand for ethanol, such as providing more land for ethanol feedstock (raw materials) and tax waivers on ethanol infrastructure,
  • Government should put in place measures that oblige fuel distributors to have ethanol as one of the fuels in the service stations thereby giving consumers the choice of fuel they would like to buy,
  • Government should unpeg the price of ethanol from that of petrol so that the price of ethanol should be determined by supply and demand,
  • Government should come up with deliberate policy to introduce flexi vehicles to its fleet thereby promoting use of flexi vehicles,
  •  Government should ensure that the ethanol/ petrol blending ratio of 20:80 is complied with by producers and distributors to guarantee sufficient supply of ethanol on the market,
  • Government should ensure that the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) provides storage facilities for ethanol to maintain constant supplies of ethanol throughout the year,
  • Denaturing of ethanol should be carried out prior to any introduction of pure ethanol use as a vehicle fuel to prevent consumption by human beings as an alcohol drink. Therefore, the ethanol standard has to be revised to incorporate the change,
  • Further research may be done on analysis of used oil, wear and tear of engine parts and exhaust gases to quantify the effects of ethanol use as vehicle fuel,
  • Vehicles running on ethanol should use a maximum of 80% ethanol in the fuel during cold weather to mitigate cold start problems,
  • Adequate training should be provided to motor vehicle technicians on vehicle modification and installation of conversion kits,
  • To efficiently run petrol driven vehicles on ethanol at more than 20:80 ethanol/ petrol blending ratio there is need to make necessary changes to carburettor vehicles and install conversion kit in electronic fuel injection vehicles,
  • The review of Energy Policy in the future should incorporate specific targets for biofuels in the energy mix, and
  • Increased publicity of ethanol as an alternative fuel to petrol to improve uptake of the technology in the country should be undertaken.