Ethanol Programme Components

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In order to implement this programme five main (areas of interventions) components have been identified:

Review of Policies on Use of Ethanol as a Fuel

For the implementation of a successful ethanol programme there is need for making informed policy decisions so as to encourage production of adequate ethanol, its distribution and utilization within the ethanol supply chain. Therefore there is need to review existing policies that affect the use of ethanol and its utilization while acknowledging advantages of the known positive aspects of ethanol as a motor vehicle fuel by learning from existing studies done on successful case studies on implementation of similar ethanol programme.

In Malawi, the desire to achieve energy security should also be understood as a government driven agenda not a market driven one. While the market will give signals on production, supply and demand, Government is supposed to champion the policy agenda that in order to meet the targets in the short, medium and long term.

The following activities are supposed to be undertaken under this component:

  • Requirement for filling stations to have ethanol/ petrol blend of E80 in addition to E20 as one of the fuels
  • Encourage local and foreign investors in ethanol production by providing investment incentives
  • Provide subsidies in ethanol production or tax waivers on ethanol production and distribution equipment
  • Provide more land under leasehold to prospective investors for ethanol feedstock production
  • Encourage motor dealers to import flex vehicles into Malawi
  • Introduce flexi vehicles to Government fleet thereby promoting use of flexi vehicles
  • Encourage organisations to introduce flex vehicles on their fleet
  • Review of the pricing structure of ethanol/ petrol blends to reflect the difference in the price of petrol and ethanol
  • Denaturing of ethanol

Ethanol Production, Distribution and Infrastructure

Increase Ethanol Production

Ethanol is currently produced from sugarcane molasses by Ethco Ltd at Dwangwa in Nkhotakota and Presscane Ltd in Chikwawa. Annual production from both plants is estimated at 18 million against total plant capacity of 32 million litres.

Estimated annual fuel requirements for petrol driven vehicles for the country is 198.6 million litres by the year 2015 and 320 million litres by the year 2020. Maintaining the blending ratio of 20:80 (ethanol/ petrol), then an estimated 37 million and 53 million litres of ethanol is required to meet the demand for blending in 2015 and in 2020 respectively. With a target of 7.5% of vehicles running in 2015 being flex (through importation and conversion of existing vehicles) then the total ethanol requirement by the year 2015 is estimated at 49 million litres.

Increasing the proportion of vehicles running as flexi to 20% by the year 2020, then ethanol requirements for the increased usage is estimated at 51 million litres and total ethanol requirement estimated at 104 million litres. To meet these targets, it is therefore required to increase ethanol production from the current 18 million to 49 million litres by 2015 (is possible/ realistic?) and then to 104 million litres by 2020. It will also be required to increase plant production capacity from 32 million litres to 49 million litres by 2015 and then to 104 million litres by 2020.

Considering that ethanol can be consumed it is therefore required to be denatured to minimise the risk of people taking as an alcohol drink while it is in transit and prior to blending.

Proposed activities to be undertaken to increase ethanol production and denature ethanol are:

  • Identify and allocate more land for growing of ethanol feedstock crops to increase raw material production e.g. through the Greenbelt Initiative
  • Identify and support farmers for growing of ethanol feedstock crops to increase raw material production (Commercial farmers and/ or small scale farmers)
  • Encourage existing producers to increase sugarcane/ molasses production by installation of additional processing equipment, introduction of new production technologies to improve production from existing feedstock, upgrading of equipment, and improvement in the feedstock quality
  • Introduce new production technologies to use of alternative raw materials that are currently available (sweet sorghum, cassava, direct use of sugarcane etc?)
  • Encourage additional players in ethanol production
  • Denaturing of ethanol


Currently ethanol companies are responsible for transportation of ethanol from their production factories to fuel distribution depots of fuel companies in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu where ethanol is blended with petrol prior to distribution by the fuel distribution companies. With increased production there will be need to increase the transportation and distribution capacity of ethanol by both the producers and distributors.

Proposed activities for the distribution of increased ethanol are:

  • Increase capacity for the transportation of ethanol from production facilities to distribution depots for blending to E20 and E80
  • Increase transportation capacity of E80 from distribution deports to service stations by deploying additional tankers and/ or converting existing tankers to ethanol compliant

Infrastructure Capacity

Currently there is an imbalance in production and usage of ethanol at different periods of the year leaving excess ethanol to be stored at ethanol producing companies for future use. It is therefore important to have adequate storage capacity at both production and distribution facilities to ensure consistent supply of ethanol to match with demand.

It will be required to ascertain as to whether current infrastructure at fuel depots and service stations are able to handle increased ethanol/ petrol blend of 80:20 (E80) as it is likely that the blend shall be introduced gradually. The choice for the gradual change is the most feasible option due to the fact that consumers need to make an informed choice of the different types of fuels they would like to buy.

Total population of petrol driven vehicles is therefore estimated at 191,000 in 2015 and 244,000 in 2020. With a target of 7.5% in 2015 and 20% in 2020 of all petrol driven being flexi then the population of flexi vehicles is estimated at 14,000 in 2015 and 50,000 in 2020.

Proposed activities for the infrastructure capacity of increased ethanol:

  • Installation of additional storage capacity at existing production facilities to meet the increased ethanol production prior to transportation to distribution depots
  • Increase storage capacity to allow for increased ethanol (pure) and ethanol/ petrol blends (E80) volumes at distribution depots (by installing additional tanks and/ or converting existing storage tanks to ethanol compliant)
  • Increase storage capacity for ethanol/ petrol blend (E80) at service filling stations in addition to those of the pump petrol (E20) so that customers will have a choice of the type of fuel they would like to buy (by installing additional tanks and/ or converting existing storage tanks to ethanol compliant)
  • Install  ethanol compliant pumps and accessories and/ or convert existing tanks to ethanol compliant
  • Importation, distribution and installation of conversion kits
  •  Import and market/ distribute flexi vehicles

Capacity Building

This component of the programme will prioritize capacity building in all areas to ensure successful rollout and implementation of the programme. In this respect, the project will implement a comprehensive capacity building programme targeting all key sectors of the economy. The programme will therefore implement the following strategies under capacity building and training:-

  • Develop and implement study tour programme of stakeholders/ implementers
  • Develop and implement a training programme for entrepreneurs in ethanol production, safety, flexi vehicles etc
  • Develop and implement a training programme for motor vehicle technicians in fitting of conversion kits and vehicle modification
  • Identify and train regional and district focal points in ethanol safety, ethanol, flexi vehicles etc
  • Develop and implement a training programme on safety handling of ethanol
  • Develop and implement training programme for journalists on science reporting

Public Awareness

This component of the programme will implement a comprehensive and wide reaching awareness and publicity programme targeting all levels of society as outlined below:-

  • Awareness building targeting cabinet ministers and committees responsible for science and technology as well as those responsible for energy issues
  • Awareness building targeting members of parliament and committees responsible for science and technology as well as those responsible for energy issues
  • Awareness meetings targeting principal secretaries and chief executives and directors
  • Awareness meetings targeting the civil society organizations, faith groups, youth groups and other interested groups
  • Develop information and publicity materials covering a wide range of topics (brochures, leaflets, booklets, calendars, diaries etc)
  • Produce and publicize a directory of key players in ethanol industry (manufacturers, dealers, distributors, and other service providers etc)

Research and Development

This component of the programme will implement research and development of emerging issues of ethanol at all levels of the supply chain i.e. feedstock production, ethanol production, distribution, use and impacts etc as outlined below:

  • Develop and implement R&D programmes in ethanol feedstock production
  • Develop and implement R&D programmes in ethanol production technologies, distribution etc
  • Develop and implement R&D programmes in ethanol use and its impacts