A biofuel is a fuel made from biomass – organic material, such as wheat, sugar cane or rapeseed – which contains stored energy from the sun in the form of chemical energy. This stored chemical energy is then converted into a liquid fuel called a biofuel. Biofuels – bioethanol or biodiesel – are blended with conventional fossil fuels, and can produce significant environmental benefits by reducing CO2 emissions; emissions are reduced, as the crops used to produce bioethanol absorb CO2 as they grow. Bioethanol is produced using fermentation of starches and sugars from crops such as sugar beet and wheat.
Bioethanol is will soon be mixed with petrol in SA and sold at most of filling stations around the country. Fuel quality standards specify the maximum amounts of biofuels to be blended in road transport fuels in order to ensure compatibility with standard vehicles’ fuel performance, engine components and fuel systems. The current fuel quality standard in the EU allows for up 5% bioethanol to be blended with standard gasoline. Higher blends can be used in specific applications when vehicles have been specifically designed or modified to use them (e.g. Flex Fuel vehicles). Mabele Fuels will be providing bioethanol to blend at 2% levels.
Rises in the price of food are a result of many factors, including poor weather, poor harvests, increased energy prices, and increased food demand in emerging economies such as South Africa. Additional demand for any crop will have some effect on prices over time, however a large proportion of the costs can be associated with energy costs for transport, processing, storage, as well as advertising the product. Mabele Fuels is very conscious of the food vs fuel debate and will make it a priority to source grain sorghum products elsewhere if there is a strain being placed on local production levels.
Worldwide there is currently plenty of uncultivated arable land that can be used for producing crops. The biggest problems with food supply are not shortage of land but political instability and lack of investment. The new market for crops provided by biofuels will ensure that farmers in SA, and in other developing countries, get fair prices for what they grow. Some experts believe this could increase investment into the agricultural industry and boost countries economies. Not all suitable agricultural land is in use at present and farmers will respond to increased demand by additional planting/production, and in times of crisis these crops will still be suitable for food and can easily be diverted into food production.
The petrol pump price is composed of a number of price elements and these can be divided into international elements and domestic elements. The international element, or Basic Fuel price (BFP), is based on an import parity principal. In other words, it is what it would cost a South African importer of petrol to buy the petrol from an international refinery, transport the product from that refinery, insure the product against losses at sea and land the product on South African shores.
Octane rating or octane number is a standard measure of the anti-knock properties (i.e. the performance) of a motor or aviation fuel. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating. In broad terms, fuels with a higher octane rating are used in high-compression engines that generally have higher performance.
Ethanol in the U.S. is transported mostly by truck, train, and barge, unlike oil, which is generally transported through pipelines and the same will apply in South Africa. Unlike oil, ethanol mixes with water. Because water accumulation in pipelines is a normal occurrence, unless the pipeline is cleaned out and made watertight, transporting ethanol in a pipeline risks making it unusable as a fuel.
Methyl tert-butyl ether, also known as methyl tertiary butyl ether and MTBE, is an organic compound with molecular formula (CH3)3COCH3. MTBE is a volatile, flammable, and colorless liquid that is immiscible with water. It has a minty odor vaguely reminiscent of diethyl ether, leading to unpleasant taste and odor in water. MTBE is a gasoline additive, used as an oxygenate to raise the octane number. Its use is controversial in the US and declining in that country in part because of its occurrence in groundwater and legislation favoring ethanol.
Worldwide there is plenty of arable land (presently uncultivated) that can be used for producing crops, if the level of agricultural investment which is currently lacking is improved. The new market for crops provided by biofuels will ensure that emerging farmers in SA will get fair prices for what they grow. Not all suitable agricultural land is in use at present and farmers will respond to increased demand by additional planting / production. In addition, the main by-products in the production of many biofuels provide high-protein animal feed for the livestock sector which will reduce the amount of land needed to grow dedicated protein crops.