• Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ethanol as viable alternative to fossil fuels

US grew oil output in 2018 more than Nigeria’s total production

LORETTA OKAFOR

When oil was discovered in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, little did Nigeria envisage the unimaginable demand for it, forcing countries of the world to scamper for alternatives for fear of possible extinction of this God- given gift. This singular attempt brought the issue of renewable energy to the “front burner” in the polity. Fuel ethanol is new and several countries have long embraced its use for obvious reasons. The trailblazers in the use of ‘green fuel’ are- Brazil, India, Thailand; USA, Canada; Europe, to mention a few. Their vehicles were long factored to accommodate both fossil and ethanol fuels.
However, Nigeria’s attempt to join these countries in August, 2005 was stalled due to political bottlenecks inherent in our governance, despite the executive fiat with which the programme was initially inaugurated. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was given the mandate to explore the alternative to PMS, to introduce and sustain the production of fuel ethanol and biodiesel from Biomass (cassava, Sugarcane, Soya bean, Palm oil and Sorghum), thereby integrating the agricultural sector with the downstream sector. This is in line with the Kyoto Protocol, to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The zeal with which the programme took off in Nigeria in 2005 equalled its steady decline due to some political bottlenecks. But when the present administration came up with its 7-Point Agenda, with energy as one of its cardinal issues, prominence was once again given to biofuels.

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Series of meeting have been going on regarding how to augument the petroleum sector through the production of biofuels. And one of such meetings was recently held at the NNPC towers. At the meeting, stakeholders gathered to brainstorm on the production of biofuel as a possible alternative to fossil fuel. A major issue at the meeting was how best to blend ethanol at the refineries with PMS, without posing any danger to users or car engines.
On the establishment of biofuel plants in Nigeria, it was suggested that there should be adequate room for the importation of biofuels to augument domestic production. Also, it was suggested that facilities for distribution of the products should be in perfect condition and upgraded where necessary. This is in addition to encouraging domestic production.
However, it was also observed that since ethanol as a solvent is better transported through pipeline, trucks, barges and railways, extreme care should taken to avoid contact with water, so that it does not it become corrosive.
For all intents and purposes, it is obvious that the take-off of ethanol is imminent. The normal volume of ethanol to be blended with PMS is 0-20 percent, beyond which it could be dangerous. Nonetheless, about 33,000 trucks would be needed for transportation but same truck for kerosene and gasoline can be used to transport ethanol, except that there should be no trace of water. Moreover, care should be taken to avoid a repeat of current happenings in the petroleum sector.
Prior to this time, Kaduna had fabricated a plant through the help of some engineers from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU) for this ethanol programme. Financial encouragement package, especially to farmers, should be provided to attract more players to the ‘green oil’ sector.
If people must buy into this programme, public enlightenments on fuel ethanol should be brought to the knowledge of the man on the street. This is a must if the skepticism with which Nigerians greeted deregulation is to be avoided. A Technical Committee to ensure the programme’s success should be constituted to carry this message of hope to the nooks and crannies of the nation