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Ethanol : A New Motor Fuel Soon !

Ahmad Macky

The inauguration of Omnicane, the new Bio-ethanol Distillery at L’Escalier recently is an important industrial development for our country to produce bio-fuel in order to be used among others to aliment our motor vehicles. In the near future we shall soon see motor vehicles on our roads with a mixture of petrol and ethanol.

However, according to technicians the mixture of petrol-ethanol will be ready this year as the Omnicane distillery needs an extra surplus module to produce ethanol adapted to vehicles’ engines. This could take at least another six months. This refinery has a capacity to produce 24 million of litres annually. Already Rs 1 billion has been injected in this project as part of ‘Maurice Ile Durable’

Produce as from the “bagasse”, the ethanol could be mixed with petrol to compose a fuel. This is done without having to effect changes at the level of the motor engines when the mixture is done at little dose. A highly elevated mixture could require some changes and modifications of the engines.

But Mauritius doesn’t invent things. In 2002, already the world production of ethanol elevated at 22 billions of litres. And the world champion in such production is Brazil. Brazil is the biggest exporters of these products. It is also the country that consumes the more. More than 80% of new vehicles are equipped with engines ‘flex-fuel’ which permit such vehicles to move well with alcohol combustible at the basis of sugar cane than petrol.

If Mauritius had already tried the experience of the production of ethanol with Alcodis, these have been a failure for various reasons. The government has also tested during a short lapse of time the mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% petrol on a dozen of vehicles during several years before, but it was a complete failure. In 2011 it was a question to allow a mixture of 50% ethanol and 50% petrol.

Omnicane Company intends to revive the project, even if a part of his production of ethanol will be exported. This distillery will plan a good system of developing its production and at the same time will try to expand its business.

“ The distillery of bio-ethanol will complete the complex eco-industry of the Bank, comprising an efficient Central Thermique in the production of electricity for the network of CEB and a production of refined sugar for the European market” said Omnicane. They also indicate that “ the putting in operation of a distillery of bio-ethanol as from molasses at the Barak, forms part of Multi Annual Adaptation Strategy 2006-2015. This plan has been elaborated by the government of Mauritius and European Union on the occasion of the Sugar Industry reformation.

Bio-ethanol will reduce the country dependency on imported petrol and will also save foreign exchange which is very important for the country as it can be invested in other fields of development.

It is a pity that producers have not reassured us of the suitability of these new products to the welfare of the country and of its safety measures. Forty years ago some of us still remember how “carburant” we used in vehicles was really explosives and dangerous. Would it be the same wine in a new bottle?

Let us not forget that bio-ethanol or simply ‘ethanol’ is a renewable energy source made by fermenting the sugar and starch components of plant by-products mainly sugar cane and crops like grain, using yeast.

Today, bio-ethanol has many uses. It is blended with petrol to make a truly sustainable transport fuel, its use in cosmetic and other manufacturing processes.

Bio-ethanol fuel is completely composed of biological products. The combustion of bio-ethanol results in a clean emission: Heat, Steam and Carbon Dioxide. Carbin dioxide is absorbed by plants. It is then processed via photosynthesis to help the grow. This infinite cycle of creation and combustion of energy makes bio-ethanol a carbon neutral fuel source.

Bio-ethanol is classified as a Flammable Liquid Class IB ( for Flamability) and Class3 PGII (for Transportation) and is regulated by various standards around the world.

Mauritians must familiarize themselves and comply with these regulations in order to a safety and legally store, handle, decant and use this fuel. We must have also a properly built area for its storage with the maximum security and safety.

AHMAD MACKY

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