BLENDING fuels play an important role in reducing pump prices of fuel and ensuring energy security of the country, hence the need for Zambia to fully exploit them.
It is public knowledge that fuel is the main driver of the economy as it is important in the movement of goods and services as well as making production happen.
Zambia’s energy demand has been increasing over the years due to economic growth and population increase, making blending important in meeting the shortfall and stabilising supply.
Not only that, blended fuel helps reduce carbon emission which makes them environmentally friendly especially this time when the world is battling with climate change.
Blended fuels are mixtures of bio fuels which are organically generated and fuels such as petrol, Jet A fuel and diesel an in varying percentages.
The New Dawn Government has prioritised the blending of fuel in order to help reduce the price of the commodity and ensure energy security.
The government has set the tone, with a number of private sector players commencing bi ethanol fuel blending.
Not too long ago, Surya Energy blended fuel labeled as E-20 had hit the market in Lusaka for a six month pilot project before rolling it out to other parts of the country.
Energy minister Peter Kapala says blending fuels is one of the mechanisms that the Government is prioritising in reducing the prices of fuel.
Mr Kapala says blended fuel on the market with the ratio of 80:20 were currently for industry use.
“Blended fuel helps reduce the pump price of fuel, which will reduce the cost of doing business and also facilitate the creation of more jobs for the youth and wealth for the country,” he said.
With Surya Energy hitting the market, we are very hopeful that more private players in ethanol blending will open up, thereby reducing the cost of fuel and eventually the cost of doing business,” he says.
The minister adds that blended fuel will create a ready market for cassava, sugarcane, maize farmers and increase the production of the cash crops.
He says the blending of ethanol with petrol is expected to reduce the country’s fuel imports by volume and reduce the loss of foreign exchange on the economy.
“Government is spending a lot of money on importing unleaded petrol and with blended fuels, we can save that money, create jobs and income at the same time,” he says.
And Indeni Energy Company Limited which is now operating as an Oil Marketing Company (OMC) has indicated that it is ready to start blending biofuels into diesels using its already established infrastructure.
The other development worth noting is that Indeni is currently finalising a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Copperbelt Energy Company (CEC) to blend biodiesel using its bio-diesel plant.
Company managing director Evans Mauta says to this effect, the company has a draft MoU with CEC and that once signed, Indeni will use the facility to blend bio- diesels.
Mr Mauta explains that the blending of bio-diesels at Indeni will help CEC scale production which is currently at small scale.
“Technically, the facility is ready to blend bio diesels. The blending ratios that are currently in the national document were developed here,” he says.
The company is exploring the economics of bio ethanol blending as it was much easier to set up.
Oil Marketing Companies Association of Zambia (OMCAZ) president Kafula Mubanga commends the Government for setting the tone on blended fuel saying it will open up more opportunities for businesses.
Dr Mubanga says the introduction of blended fuel will pave the way for new business opportunities.
He says farmers will increase the production of maize, cassava and sugar cane to be sold to ethanol producers.
Ethanol producers will provide a ready market for farmers to sell their produce.
“This is very good for our member Surya Energy to put blended fuel on the market on a pilot project in Lusaka. This is just the beginning, we expect more companies to start blending fuel with ethanol,” he says.
Dr Mubanga says the blending of fuel will help reduce the pump prices of fuel which have been high.
He called on the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) to develop and approve the technical specifications for blending fuels in Zambia.
Dr Mubanga advises that ERB should put in place a proper pricing mechanism for blended fuel for fair competition.
He says there is need for proper technical testing of the blended fuel on vehicle engines to ensure safety.
Further, the new dawn Government is exploring possibilities for the production of sustainable aviation fuel to help make the cost of air transport affordable by the majority Zambians.
Transport and Logistics Minister Frank Tayali says sustainable aviation fuel is what is being used by most of the countries with affordable transport fares in the region.
Mr Tayali says the government is exploring avenues just like other countries to blend Jet A 1 fuel with methanol.
He says sustainable aviation fuel which is a combination of Jet A 1 fuel and methanol is cheaper and environmentally friendly.
“With aviation fuel, we are killing two birds with one stone, apart from reducing the cost of fuel, we are also reducing greatly the carbon content of that fuel or what we call decarbonisation which will attract foreign airline to come and refuel in Zambia, as per direction, they are required to refuel from countries with sustainable aviation fuel,” he says.
Mr Tayali adds that the Government is in talks with the World Bank for funding for the development of infrastructure for blending Jet A 1 fuel with methanol.
The use of blended in the economy is indeed key in reducing the cost of fuel, the cost of doing business and boosting the country’s energy security.