Mabele Fuels’ $216.9m bioethanol plant in Bothaville

Pending promulgation of the proposed mandatory bioethanol blending regulations in South Africa, construction of Mabele Fuels’ 153m litres per annum fuel-grade bioethanol plant in Bothaville, Free State is set to start in June, and is expected to take 24 months.

This is according to Phillip Bouwer, executive director of Mabele Fuels, who says: “We will need about 400,000t of grain sorghum to meet a 2% annual blending rate. All indications are that government will announce the compulsory inclusion of at least 2% bioethanol in fuel before the end of May.”
Bouwer says that Vogelbusch GmbH, a leading Austrian bioethanol process design company – which has designed over 30 similar grain-based plants – has been subcontracted to the project to provide the technology designing package and quality warranty for the ethanol production line, documentation,specifications, as well as the operating licence. “Vogelbusch will be responsible for proprietary equipment supply for the distillation and dehydration systems and technical assistance during procurement, manufacturing, and acceptance of equipment. It will also supervise the installation, precommissioning, commissioning and field training for the project.”
Bouwer describes Mabele Fuels as a unique co-operation between historically-disadvantaged individuals and specialists in the clean energy market. “After the exclusion of the use of maize for ethanol production in the Biofuels Industrial Strategy in 2007, our shareholders, Sterling Waterford Holdings and Mvelaphanda, specifically chose grain sorghum to meet the requirements of the strategy and because of its potential to promote commercially successful emerging farmers,” he states. “Grain sorghum isindigenous to South Africa and can prosper on marginal land with soil that is low in potential, shallow, and has reasonably-high clay content.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the Free State is South Africa’s largest sorghum-producingarea, producing on average 52% of the total domestic crop. We have
undertaken a detailed area analysis and are implementing an emerging farmer development programme in conjunction with our primary procurement partners.”
Bouwer explains that there is an added advantage to using grain sorghum as feedstock – the dried distillers’ grain and solubles (DDGS), a by-product of bioethanol production, has about three times the protein content and the same energy levels as the original feedstock. Consequently, it receives a price in the US and European animal feeds market of between 0.8 and 1.2 times that of maize. “South Africa’s animal feed market comprises approximately 7.3m tons per annum. We anticipate that DDGS will replace yellow maize in this feed market, and that the market is capable of absorbing our entire production capacity of 107,000t/annum. We have already entered into proposed offtake agreements for the sale of the DDGS to national animal feed producers,” he states.
Mabele Fuels: Tel +27 (0)21 418 4490;