Colombia ups ethanol, biodiesel mandate in fuels
Thursday, Mar 08, 2018
The Colombian government has lifted the mandated blend limit for biofuels in gasoline and diesel, in a bid to tackle rising inner city pollution and resolve oversupply issues that threaten to disrupt production.

The required mix of ethanol in gasoline and biodiesel in diesel were both raised to 10% (E10, B10) nationwide from March 1, said the country’s mines and energy ministry, the government arm which controls blending mandates.

Previous ethanol mandates stood at 8% (E8) in the central Antioquia department and 6% (E6) for the rest of the country, while mandates for biodiesel ranged from 2% (B2) to 9% (B9), according to biofuels federation Fedebiocombustibles.

Three eastern departments that border Venezuela continue to be exempted from mandate adjustments amid ongoing problems with cross-border smuggling.

“From 1 March the blend of biofuels throughout the whole country is 10%,” Colombia’s finance minister Mauricio Cardenas tweeted. “This means more jobs in agriculture and less CO2 emissions. Great news!”
State-controlled energy giant Ecopetrol has also guaranteed the supply of bioethanol through its biofuels subsidiary Bioenergy. The unit’s El Alcaravan ethanol plant, one of seven facilities operating in Colombia, began commercial production last June.

“We are ready to supply more ethanol through Bioenergy, the largest ethanol plant in the Llanos (central Colombia) with a capacity to produce 500,000 litres per day,” Ecopetrol CEO Felipe Bayon Pardo said, quoted by newspaper El Pais.

The modest increase has been on the cards for some time, but record levels of air pollution in Bogota, Medellin and other major cities has forced the government to act. As part of the Paris climate accord, Colombia has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030, a figure that could rise to 30% with international support.

“Ethanol does not emit particulate matter or carbon monoxide, elements that pollute the atmosphere. Ethanol signals wellbeing, as it makes a vital contribution to air quality,” said Fedebiocombustibles president Jorge Bendeck.

Meanwhile, a glut in ethanol supply has put biofuel infrastructure under pressure. According to Portafolio.com, ethanol producers Riopaila-Castilla and Incauca, both based in southwest Colombia, have temporarily halted operations at their production facilities due to chock-full storage facilities.

Overcapacity is also affecting a third producer, whose storage facilities are 98% full, Portafolio.com said.

Colombia produced some 456 million litres of ethanol in 2015 and 434 million litres in 2016, according to Fedebiocombustibles. Production rates in 2017, not yet published, are likely to be significantly higher following the start-up of El Alcaravan.

Colombia also has twelve biodiesel plants, which use palm oil feedstock and represent a combined production capacity of up to 921,000 tonnes (around 1 billion litres) per year.

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