Zimbabwe has started the countdown to switch from the high sulphur Diesel 500 to the cleaner fuel, Diesel 50 with the full implementation of this transition expected by March 2018.
It is a commitment that is in tandem with the rest of the African region, where countries are increasingly moving towards the adoption of cleaner fuels.
Sulphur particles in diesel emissions have been linked to a range of health problems and the transition to the cleaner Diesel 50 is expected to ensure that over 10 million people in Zimbabwe breathe clean and safe air.
An earlier transition deadline was missed in June this year, and authorities revised the target.
“With effect from the 1st of this month fuel importers will be required to only import Diesel 50 and selling of any other fuel grade would become an offence as from March 2018,” said Mr Partson Mbiriri, the Permanent Secretary of Energy and Power Development.
Since 2015, monthly consumption of Diesel 50 has increased by at least 2 million litres to around 4 million litres by the end of 2016.
Future plans are to ensure that the country migrates to even lower levels of sulphur by using Diesel 10, which is a further reduction of the sulphur particles in the fuel.
Diesel 50 is already on the market with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) endorsing its quality and compliance to the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) guidelines.
Environmentalists welcome development:
The commitment to adopt Diesel 50 has been welcomed by environmentalists who noted that the government has proved its seriousness in sustaining the environment.
The environment and the motoring public will be the biggest beneficiaries of the adoption of Diesel 50 given that the conventional diesel contained high levels of pollutants.
Environmental Professionals Council of Zimbabwe President, Mr Sunny Chikwanha said wider adoption of greener fuels reduces environmental hazards like acid rain that are caused by toxic pollutants emitted into the atmosphere.
“I must applaud the decision that the government has made, it shows that as a country, we are committed to environmental sustainability,” said Mr Chikwanha.
“The advantages which are in Diesel 50 are that sulphur content is less compared to conventional diesel, and this means that when it burns in the engine, there is complete combustion and the levels of sulphur are compatible with emission control devices such as catalytic converters. It also means reduced effects on acid rain,” Mr Chikwanha added.
“Diesel 50 will have economic benefits since it lasts longer in motor vehicles and is less harmful to engine parts, thus reducing maintenance costs,” Prone Cane Investments Environmental Manager, Mr Spencer Mukona said.
Diesel 50 has been adopted widely in developing countries and neighbouring countries like Botswana and South Africa.
Diesel 50 challenges:
The current price of Diesel 50 is pegged slightly higher compared to the currently dominant Diesel 500 version, and issues relating to cost, pricing models, adaptability systems, sustainability to the environment, retail fuel sector compliance are under the spotlight.
With Diesel 50 being anticipated to address threats to the environment and pollution, issues relating to stakeholder adaptability and the extent to which local vehicles can be linked with the new system is of greater concern, according to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) President, Dr Devine Ndhlukula.
While the fuel retail value chain is being anticipated to review some of its trading systems in line with the new requirements, Buy Zimbabwe Chairman, Dr Anxious Masuka said costs of the new product are also under the spotlight.
The Permanent Secretary of Energy and Power Development, Mr Partson Mbiriri however assured consumers that the transition to this cleaner fuel will not result to any price increases.