ZERA Explains Petrol Blending in Zimbabwe
By the HRT,
30 June 2020, Harare– A senior official with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), Engineer Nobert Matarutse has clarified the cost of blending unleaded petrol and ethanol saying the blending was justified as it reduces the foreign currency obligation by 20 percent for E20, and by 10 percent for E10. His clarification comes at a time the motoring public has condemned the use of ethanol arguing that it made our petrol more expensive and it if damaging people’s vehicles. Motorists say that a litre of petrol no longer meets the expected distance travelled on consumption, meaning more fuel is consumed per kilometre travelled beyond their comprehension.
Engineer Matarutse, ZERA’s Consumer Services Manager gave the clarification during an intense engagement meeting held on the Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) Residents’ Dialogue whatsapp interactive platform comprising of academics, residents’ leaders, local and national policymakers and bureaucrats, media personnel and civil society leaders. Forum participant Albert Chandaengerwa facilitated the discussion and probed on the ethanol issues.
Engineer Matarutse said: “In terms of blending we are currently at 20 percent hence our petrol is referred to as E20. Whilst the litre of Ethanol costs RTGS$54.5763 only 200ml of that one litre is what is added to unleaded fuel (800ml) to make a litre. The 200ml of ethanol costs RTGS$10.91526.
This explained sounded more technical for the understanding of ordinary residents, so Engineer Matarutse had to further simplify the message.
“Let me take this opportunity to advise colleagues that Ethanol, which is a by-product of the production of sugar, is a fuel,” he said. “In Zimbabwe, just like in many other countries, a decision was made to mix unleaded petrol with Ethanol in order to save on foreign currency (which no doubt is in short supply) and also to reduce pollution. So when the unleaded petrol, 95% which comes by pipeline from Beira to Msasa, is received at Msasa, it is Blended (mixed with Ethanol) by NOIC (National Oil Infrastructure Company) at Msasa, 800ml (unleaded petrol) + 200ml (Ethanol) = 1 litre Petrol (E20).”
From the given explanation, this means that one litre of ethanol can blend five litres of petrol. Foreign currency is therefore required for the 800 millilitres of imported petrol and local currency is needed for the 200ml in order to procure 1000ml, which makes up the one litre E20 petrol that is eventually sold in Zimbabwe, according to the ZERA official.
Jonathan Muringani, another participant said: “Engineer Matarutse, the science of ethanol has not changed. What has changed are the criminals who have a monopoly thorough political patronage. While you are just an employee, the political trickster and their professional appendages are living on borrowed time as they extract excessive rents on the population like stationary bandits (Mancur Olson).”
To this Engineer Matarutse said Muringani’s comments were outside his mandate at ZERA.
Other contributions came from participants who wanted to understand why then service stations selling petrol in USD did not factor in the ZWL component in their costing, because they all demanded payment in USD. Several service stations in Harare are selling their fuel in foreign currency, and very rarely is the precious commodity sold in the local currency.
Before the latest price increases by ZERA, petrol was largely trading at around one USD to US$1.05 at most service stations, but ZERA pegged the fuel at US$128, way beyond what was prevailing in the market.
Zimbabwe’s motorists continue to experience fuel shortages, and spent valuable productive time in petrol and diesel queues with no solution in sight. Concerns however remain that ethanol has contributed to the high cost of fuel in Zimbabwe with critics of the government’s move demanding the end to ethanol blending in the country.