GuySuCo begins formal testing of bio-ethanol in vehicles

The Guyana Sugar Corpo-ration (GuySuCo) last week formally began the testing of its bio-ethanol E-10 fuel in vehicles with the expectation that by the end of this year, about 25 vehicles would routinely be utilising the fuel.

With funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through a technical cooperation project, ‘Expanding bio-energy opportunities in Guyana,’ in August last year a bio-ethanol demonstration plant was opened at GuySuCo’s Albion estate with the objectives of demonstrating production of fuel grade ethanol from the estates’ available feed stock, increasing the mass of trained personnel in the area of bio-fuel through training and research, and demonstrating the utilisation of bio-ethanol fuel.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) reported that on Friday, the bio-ethanol E-10 fuel produced at the Albion estate was formally launched for trial run in a number of vehicles, with the expectation that before the end of 2014, approximately 25 vehicles would be routinely utilising the fuel. Moreover, for the future, the aim would be the production of commercially available blended fuel.

Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy delivering the feature remarks at the event, said the effort at Albion is not just for a ‘show piece’ but is the first step in adding a new commodity for the sugar company. The minister said the government is also hoping that GuySuCo’s effort is the first step in making it a national programme and pointed to the establishment of a National Commission on bio-energy with one of its goals being the hope of introducing legislation to mandate the use of blended fuel.

“Whilst we are deciding on that, we at GuySuCo have moved forward by blending E-10 for a small number of vehicles… one thing that we want everyone to know however, is that having made the start here at Albion, this pilot plan will develop in the future to produce commercially available blended fuel for use, and therefore GuySuCo is adding to its commodity,” GINA quoted the minister as saying.

Even as GuySuCo launched the new E-10 blend of fuel, it will continue efforts at a determined cost and efficiency towards this goal of commercial production, he stated.

One of the studies that is to be conducted over the next months is to consider, in addition to molasses derived out of sugar, what other substrates can be used, for example cassava, in the production of bio-fuel. This will ensure that even when sugar is not in production, the company can continue to produce bio-fuel, with the other substrate, GINA reported.

Even as the Albion estate is set to go from demonstration of bio-ethanol to production, Ramsammy reiterated that GuySuCo’s and government’s goals for the company remain sugarcane cultivation and sugar production. “GuySuCo has no intention of giving up sugar and sugarcane. These will remain the pillars on which GuySuCco as a corporation not only sustains its reputation, but continues to build on that reputation. We will add products along the way, and we will change how we do business along the way, but GuySuCo is not giving up on sugar, not next year, not 20 years from now. GuySuCo’s entire future will continue to produce sugar and continue to add new products, bio-fuel is simply another of the new product we will add.” GINA quoted Ramsammy as saying.

Albion estate manager Devindra Kumar said it was a privilege to have the bio-ethanol demonstration plant at Albion as the estate welcomes being part of a programme to generate bio-fuel to reduce the country’s dependency on fossil fuel, GINA reported. “I have no doubt that this is the launching pad of a very successful venture. I am sure that we will see bio-ethanol fuel playing a major role in the drive towards cheap and affordable energy in GuySuCo, the Ministry of Agriculture and the country,” Kumar said.

Subsequent to the commissioning of the bio-ethanol demonstration plant on August 10, 2013, a fuel blending and dispensing unit was installed to facilitate the mixing of gasoline with anhydrous ethanol.

According to factory Operations Manager Dwarka Sharma, the installation work was completed in February 2014 with all the works being executed by the employees of Albion factory. He said that material was sourced from in-house. Sharma explained that given the scale of the project, the blending unit was made to operate on a basis to facilitate the addition of known volume of ethanol to a known volume of gasoline. He said homogeneity of the fuel was achieved through recirculation using pump and a mixing tank with recirculation time being dependent on the volume of the blended fuel.

GINA reported that the present arrangement is capable of producing blends of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 per cent ethanol, but although the capacity exists to produce varying blends, the plant is focused on mixing ethanol with gasoline at a 10 per cent level to make the E-10 blend, because these blends are compatible with vehicles in Guyana.

Sharma said trials on blending ethanol with gasoline commenced in the first week of April 2014, with the first batch of E-10 being tested on a Toyota Corolla car from GuySuCo on April 8. According to Sharma no modification was done to the vehicle. From April 8 to last Friday, the vehicle has been using fuel from the facility and its performance remains unchanged with no significant difference between its consumption rate of E-10 and regular gasoline, according to GINA. The vehicles using the E-10 fuel can be identified by a sticker proclaiming their use of the fuel.

GINA said that GuySuCo has always been an industry that relies on and has a capacity for bio-fuel. Long before anyone was talking about bio-fuel in Guyana, GuySuCo was not only producing but utilising bio-energy and for most of its history, the industry has been engaged in the production of energy to drive its own factories through the use of bio-energy, GINA said. It added that GuySuCo’s Skeldon factory uses biogas to supply energy to the national grid.

While places like Wauna and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) have been producing bio-diesel, Albion is the first operation set to go from demonstration to production. In addition Albion has also now become the lead bio-ethanol research and training centre. At the moment five University of Guyana students are interns at this facility, GINA reported.

It added that the Ministry of Agriculture has worked with UG and with the Guyana School of Agriculture with regard to introducing a bio-ethanol course and has identified the Albion demonstration plant as one of the facilities that will be used to provide hands-on training to the students

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