SOUTH Africa has introduced mandatory blending regulations in a move that would see all motorists in that country using fuel with up to 10 percent content of ethanol. By introducing mandatory blending, South Africa joins a number of countries - Brazil, China, Canada and India, among others - that have already introduced that law.
Zimbabwean motorists and those in other neighbouring countries travelling to South Africa would not be spared from using the blended fuel.
In a Regulation Gazette dated August 23, 2012, Number 9808, the South African Energy Department said: "These regulations regulate the mandatory blending of bioethanol or biodiesel with petroleum petrol or petroleum diesel, respectively, to produce a biofuel blend that may be sold in the republic."
But the new regulations gave South Africans alternatives to fossil fuel sources in line with its Government's thrust of diversifying the energy sector.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries has endorsed the call to make it mandatory to blend petrol with ethanol.
"CZI, in line with world trends, endorses the introduction of mandatory blending of a minimum of E10 (and discretionary E20) as soon as practically possible with a deadline of December 2012," the CZI said in a statement.
"We fully support the reintroduction of ethanol blends and advocate role players within the petroleum industry to increase the use of ethanol with immediate effect by blending where conveniently possible."
In line with the new South Africa energy regulations, it is understood that the government is negotiating with potential investors to set up its first ethanol plant.
Sources said the plant was expected to be completed by 2014 in order to reap the benefits of domestic fuel sources. South Africa, with a large number of motorists, introduced mandatory blending without raising concern over vehicle compatibility.
In Zimbabwe, local industrialists have urged Government to seriously consider mandatory blending, given that the country already has a world-class ethanol plant in Chisumbanje.
The industrialists argued that, through mandatory blending, Government would save money on fuel and electricity imports.
But the Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant, owned by Green Fuel, has been lying idle since February after it had produced 10 million litres of ethanol.
More than 4 000 jobs are also on the line at the Chisumbanje ethanol plant if Government fails to address the issue of mandatory blending.
It is understood that the Department of Renewable Energy in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development has, since 2008, been sitting on a draft mandatory blending policy.
Sources in the energy sector said some Government officials were working towards the collapse of the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project to protect their interests in the sector.
"If mandatory blending is introduced in Zimbabwe, fuel importation will be a thing of the past," said a source. "It is against this background that some Government officials are reluctant to introduce it because they are benefiting from fuel imports."