The Malawi government has approved the use of ethanol as an alternative fuel to power vehicles following research conducted by the country’s National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST).
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology permanent secretary Lonely Magareta says that, following approval of the NCST by Cabinet, the country has started making preparations to ensure that, from January, ethanol is available at filling stations alongside diesel and petrol.
Says Magareta: “Shortly, government will mobilise the private sector to substantially invest in ethanol production.
“There is a bit more to be done but as soon as that is done, we will be able to have filling stations with diesel, petrol and ethanol.”
The research conducted by the NCST indicates that Malawi will save a huge amount of foreign exchange if it resorts to using locally produced ethanol, which is also a cleaner fuel.
The commission’s director-general, Hender-son Chimoyo, says the NCST will call for a stakeholders meeting “where we will map the way forward [in terms of] production, distribution, regulation and pricing”.
Chomoyo explains that vehicles that will run on ethanol will be fitted with a conversion unit.
“The unit is not expensive as, currently, it costs $25. “Once the unit is fitted, a motorist will be able to fill a tank with either ethanol 100% or whatever mixture. This implies that, if your car runs out of ethanol, you will be able to fill up with petrol,” he says.
Malawi, which spends $33-million a month on fuel imports, is experiencing fuel shortages.
Currently, there are two firms that produce ethanol from sugar cane, namely Ethanol Company of Malawi, in Dwangwa, in the cen- tral region, and Press Cane, in the lower Shire Valley area.
The two plants, with a combined capacity of 18-million litres, are located close to sugar factories owned by multinational sugar group Illovo.