South Africa: Future Fuels and the Coming Ethanol Revolution - Is Sasol Facing Technological Redundancy?

Photo: Sasol
(file photo)

As global pressure mounts against fossil fuels, the production of sustainable ethanol is the next frontier - and South Africa is perfectly placed to play a leading role.

With the rise of Greta Thunberg, the Extinction Rebellion and public awareness, the voices against fossil fuels continue to grow, but while the overwhelming pressure is for countries to move away from coal to meet their demand for electricity, little attention has been given to other aspects of the fossil fuel value chain.

The transport and chemicals sectors remain highly reliant on fossil fuels. Emissions from the transport sector are still on the rise in most places. Aviation alone accounted for 20% of total global oil demand growth in 2018. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), petrochemicals will account for over a third of the growth in crude oil demand by 2030 and almost half by 2050.

Renewable ethanol (from biogenic and non-biogenic sources) could be an important part of the solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the "more difficult to decarbonise" segments of the transport and chemical sectors. Produced in sufficient quantities, while following adequate sustainability criteria, it has the potential to disrupt the use of fossil carbon in...

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