Sunbird Bioenergy Africa Limited (“Sunbird Bioenergy”) is pleased to announce that the company has entered into an agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe and China New Energy (AIM:CNEL) to develop a sustainable bioenergy project in Zimbabwe that will produce 120 million litres of fuel grade ethanol for the Zimbabwean market from cassava and sweet potato.
The project to be based in the Mushumbi pools in the Mbire Rural District in Mashonaland Central will also see the construction of ethanol production plant and a 36 MW biomass power station which will power the ethanol production plant and supply up to 30 MW of electricity into the national power grid subject to a power purchasing agreement with the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company.
Further to that, the Ministry of Energy and Power Development through the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority has committed to increase the ethanol blending mandate from E10 to E20 to promote energy security and independence, boost local agriculture and increased nutritional capacity, local energy production, expansion of Zimbabwe’s green economy and achievement of its climate change goals in recognition of current climatic changes heavily influenced by global warming.
Once successfully implemented Sunbird Bioenergy Zimbabwe will reduce Zimbabwe’s import bill by 100 million dollars per year which will keep capital within Zimbabwe to stimulate the growth and development of local industry and redirect revenue to Zimbabwean farmers growing cassava and sweet potato from their earnings. This will benefit the country’s efforts towards sustainable development and poverty alleviation in line with the recently announced United Nations Sustainable Development goals.
Moreover, the proposed venture is in line with the government of Zimbabwe’s current economic blueprint the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio Economic Transformation (ZIM ASSET) which encapsulated within it are several provisions for bioenergy production, energy development and agricultural production all as measures to grow Zimbabwe’s economy.
Part of Sunbird Bioenergy’s plan is to create a nucleus farm, and divide the remaining land into plots that will be apportioned to local out growers from 23,000 hectares of land that has been allocated for the development by the Government of Zimbabwe.
Sunbird Bioenergy will purchase the locally produced cassava and create economic opportunities for more than 20,000 farmers who were once thriving cotton farmers who have been devastated by unfavourable cotton prices. This will contribute towards employment creation through the out-grower program as well as 750 jobs that will be created at the ethanol production plant.
Cassava (a starch rich tuber that is easy to grow for both small-scale and commercial farmers) is the most efficient biofuel feedstock in Sub-Saharan Africa because it has a starch content of approximately 50%. Cassava like sweet potato is also both indigenous and easy to grow in the region.
Dr Ian Robertson formerly of the University of Zimbabwe and Agri-Biotech Private Limited speaking on the yield potential of cassava and sweet potatoes, said the following, “In natural farming region four, farmers can expect to achieve a yield of 15 tonnes per hectare in good years without irrigation and as high as 80 tonnes per hectare with irrigation for cassava and for sweet potato farmers can yield from 20 tonnes per hectare without irrigation and as high as 60t (I said 60 t/h for sweet potato although we have in Shurugwe achieved more) tonnes with irrigation.”
Sunbird Bioenergy will immediately commence development of the nucleus farm and out grower program to develop a supply chain of feedstock for the bio-refinery. The biorefinery will commence construction in Q2 2016 and will enter production in Q4 2016. It is expected to operate at its full commercial capacity of 120 million litres per year in Q4 2017 and beyond.
The bio-refinery will be designed and constructed in partnership with China New Energy Limited using their proprietary cassava to ethanol technology that has been successfully commissioned in Thailand and is now fully operational. As such the project will replicate the just completed plant in Thailand.
Commenting on the upcoming development, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture Dr. Joseph Made said “Using cassava will not only create much needed economic opportunities for rural small-scale farmers, but will also diversify agriculture risk from solely using sugarcane for ethanol production and will contribute to food nutrition and other down stream industries such as starch, glucose and stock feed in Zimbabwe.
“Honourable Minister of Energy and Power development also went on to state, “Zimbabwe legislation encourages a competitive ethanol market and a second project in the country will lead to lower fuel costs for consumers.”
“This will represent our third project in Sub-Saharan Africa and is part of our vision to fund African job-creation and rural development initiatives through the import substitution of petroleum with bioethanol” said Richard Bennett, CEO of Sunbird Bioenergy “60% of African Energy is imported, substituting this with home-grown energy will contribute to energy security and will lead to long-term job creation for farmers, engineers and many others in the supply chain.”
About Sunbird Bioenergy:
In Zimbabwe Sunbird has established Sunbird Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd with both international and local partners as per statutory requirements who are Mr. Nicholas Bridges and Mr. Richard Bennett (International) and Mr. John T.E. Mapondera and Dr. Herbert M. Mrerwa.