THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) says mandatory E10 ethanol fuel blend is safe for all petrol cars but was silent on the effects of E15 and E20 on engines and automobiles’ performances.
In a written response to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent Zera’s chief executive officer Gloria Magombo said this week companies that did not comply with regulations for mandatory blending would be prosecuted under the Petroleum Act with the possibility of withdrawal of licences once due process is completed.
Magorimbo was responding to concerns about the safety of the blended fuel after government announced plans to increase the level of mandatory ethanol blending with unleaded petrol from 5 to 10% and up to 20% by March 2014.
Government has introduced mandatory E10 blending with effect from October 15, although the statutory instrument is yet to be gazetted.
It plans to increase the ethanol blend to 15% next month and 20% by March 2014.
“Studies have already been done by reputable and internationally recognised institutions,” said Magorimbo. “Most of the studies are applicable to the vehicle models used in Zimbabwe including imports.”
“E5 and E10 have been found to be safe for all petrol cars in general. Zera also commissioned a Consultancy for Development of a Fuel Quality and Bio Fuels Policy Framework and initial recommendations are that use of current levels of ethanol blends is safe. The study will also identify risks and mitigation strategies to deal with higher blending levels targeting the Zimbabwean fleet.”
She said Zera was still awaiting the statutory instrument to be gazetted for the E10 mandate to become effective, probably before the end of this month.
Magorimbo also revealed that 10 blending licences have so far been issued to four companies namely Zuva Petroleum, Engen Petroleum Zimbabwe, Green Fuel and Sakunda Energy. The licences are site specific with the bulk of the blending to take place in Harare (5 sites) followed by Bulawayo (2 sites), Mutare (2 sites) and Triangle (1 site). The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe will also blend fuel at its Msasa (Harare) and Feruka (Mutare) facilities.
Asked why Zimbabwe decided to have mandatory blending when in other countries people are given a choice, Magombo said the decision is in line with the national policy thrust to increase uptake of biofuels and contribute towards a cleaner environment.
“This policy trajectory is to migrate higher blends in order to fully exploit the benefits that come with ethanol blending like energy security, fuel import bill reduction, employment creation and power generation,” she said.
The motoring public should not expect a significant reduction in the fuel price, Magombo said. Only a “marginal drop of two to three cents of pump price of E10 is expected compared to the prevailing price of E5.”