The Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, recently announced that the blending of biofuels in mineral fuels will become mandatory in the future.
The Department of Energy published regulations regarding the mandatory blending of biofuels and diesel in the Government Gazette. The regulations were published in terms of the Petroleum Products Act of 1977 and were published for comment in November 2011. However, the implementation date has not been made public yet.
The regulations set down conditions of mandatory blending of bio-ethanol and biodiesel with petrol and diesel respectively. According to an agricultural and biofuels advisor, Fanie Brink, Peters announced a minimum concentration of 5% for biodiesel blending with mineral diesel and a permitted range from 2% to 10% for bio-ethanol blending. Moreover, biofuels can only be purchased from a licenced biofuels manufacturer, according to www.sabinetlaw.co.za.
Other conditions stipulated in the regulations include:
• Biofuels must be supplied to a blending facility at the regulated price.
• A blender must pay the regulated price.
• The final blended product must comply with the specifications and standard regulations.
• Set minimum biofuel concentrations must comply with the final blend.
According to the regulations, petrol manufacturers cannot refuse to buy either bio-ethanol or biodiesel – unless they can show that they do not have enough petrol or diesel to mix with the biofuels.
Importantly, all bio-ethanol and biodiesel manufacturers must submit records to the department at the end of each month. These records must include the volumes of bio-ethanol or biodiesel that were manufactured, volumes of bio-ethanol or biodiesel that were sold to blenders, and the names of blenders to which the biodiesel or bio-ethanol were sold. According to the regulations, blenders are also expected to submit similar records on a monthly basis and all records should be kept for five years.
The department published a draft discussion document on the review of fuel specifications and standards in March last year. According to the executive summary, the document serves to “outline the direction which the government intends to follow in further improving the quality of transport fuels”. It also describes the introduction of cleaner fuels as being in line with “the country’s policy framework as articulated in the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2 (IPAP2), the green economy as well as the new growth path”. New specifications will be introduced in a phased manner.
“Mandatory blending of biofuels is without any doubt a decisive step towards establishing a biofuels industry in South Africa,” says Brink. “The required policy framework, however, will have to be fully regulated through the applicable legislation before any progress and investment in the biofuels industry will take place,” he adds.
Other excellent opportunities to produce renewable energy in South Africa already exist internationally and should be investigated further. According to Brink, these include:
• Producing bio-ethanol from plant material (celluloses) to generate renewable bio-electricity. The University of Stellenbosch is on the forefront of international research on producing bio-ethanol from celluloses and has made huge progress in this regard.
• Generating bio-electricity from biomass (plant material). A plant such as sorghum, which is normally planted for producing animal feed, can produce high yields of plant material as a feedstock and could create many job opportunities in rural areas – especially if the biomass is harvested and collected in a labour-intensive manner.
• Producing biodiesel, bio-ethanol or biobutanol from algae can be used for generating bio-electricity.
Full acknowledgement and thanks are given to www.sabinetlaw.co.za and Fanie Brink, Independent agricultural and biofuels advisor, for the information given to write this article.