Ethanol as a Biofuel: Insights from MEMAN Competency Centre Series Workshop

The recently concluded MEMAN Competency Centre Series Workshop on “Ethanol as a Biofuel,” presented by Agwu Ojowu, Senior Consultant at Africa Practice, highlighted the significant potential and benefits of ethanol as a renewable energy source for Nigeria. The workshop underscored the importance of ethanol in addressing Nigeria’s energy needs while fostering economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Ethanol, a renewable alcohol-based fuel, is produced by fermenting starches and sugars from crops like sugarcane, cassava, and sorghum. It comes in two forms: denatured, which contains additives making it unfit for consumption, and undenatured, used in beverages and medicines. This biofuel is not only a viable energy alternative but also serves various other purposes such as in hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and industrial solvents.

Ethanol blends are widely used across the globe, with around 70 countries incorporating ethanol into their fuel supplies. Common blends like E10 and E15 improve fuel quality and reduce environmental impact. Specialized vehicles can utilize blends up to E85, showcasing the flexibility and benefits of ethanol as a biofuel.

Nigeria’s foray into ethanol began with the 2007 biofuels policy, which mandated a 10% ethanol blend in fuel. Despite initial challenges, including the suspension of the policy in 2008 due to blending inconsistencies, the potential for ethanol remains significant. Ethanol’s cost-effectiveness compared to petrol has historically led to economic arbitrage, suggesting that a well-regulated biofuel market could be economically advantageous.

One of the key concerns addressed was the potential impact on food security. Given Nigeria’s high food inflation, using crops for fuel production poses risks. However, studies indicate that a biofuel market could actually enhance agricultural productivity and yield. For instance, Nigeria, the world’s largest cassava producer, could significantly increase its yield from the current 15 tons per hectare to match China’s 30 tons per hectare through increased investment and market demand.

The development of a biofuel market promises substantial technological advancements and investment opportunities. These improvements can reduce post-harvest losses and boost overall productivity, aligning with national goals for food security and energy diversification. The experience of the US and Brazil serves as a testament to the positive impact of ethanol production on the agricultural sector and the economy at large.

In the US, ethanol production has bolstered the agricultural sector, making it the largest bioethanol producer globally. This has been achieved without compromising food supply, demonstrating that ethanol can coexist with traditional agriculture. Similarly, Brazil’s success with sugarcane-based ethanol and the development of specialized ethanol vehicles highlight the potential for a robust ethanol industry.

Nigeria’s cassava production, standing at 63 million metric tons annually, represents 26% of the global total. However, with 40% of this yield lost each year, there is a significant economic loss estimated at $7.4 billion. Developing the ethanol industry could mitigate these losses, enhance economic stability, and capitalize on the depreciating currency to reduce costs.

Ethanol’s higher octane rating improves fuel quality and helps meet environmental standards by reducing sulfur content and greenhouse gas emissions. These attributes make ethanol a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to petrol, aligning with Nigeria’s climate commitments.

In conclusion, ethanol presents numerous benefits, including economic, environmental, and agricultural advantages, without necessitating vehicle modifications. The workshop concluded with closing remarks from Clement Isong, CEO of MEMAN, emphasizing the critical role of renewable energy in addressing Nigeria’s energy poverty. He highlighted the importance of diverse energy sources, including biofuels, solar, hydroelectricity, and potential wind energy, to create a balanced and sustainable energy mix.

Isong reaffirmed MEMAN’s commitment to engaging with the press and industry stakeholders to advocate for energy solutions that meet Nigeria’s needs. He expressed optimism about the future of renewable energy in Nigeria and the continued efforts to enhance press engagement and industry collaboration.

The MEMAN Competency Centre Series Workshop on ethanol as a biofuel successfully highlighted the transformative potential of ethanol in Nigeria’s energy landscape, paving the way for a sustainable and economically robust future.

Comment here