PressCane Limited, a subsidiary of the dual-listed conglomerate Press Corporation Limited (PCL), has increased daily ethanol production by 50 percent from 60 000 litres to 90 000 litres following plant upgrade.
The K2.8 billion plant upgrade project at Chikwawa, which rolled out in January this year, included the addition of two fermenters and other equipment in the distillation section, replacing smaller sized equipment with bigger capacity and an upgrade in the plant software.
PCL group chief executive officer George Partridge, who officially commissioned the plant on Wednesday in Chikwawa, said apart from increasing output capacity, the plant upgrade will also reduce costs and increase effluent waste management efficiency.
He said: “PressCane and PCL by extension, will benefit from this upgrade as we will now be producing more ethanol using the same cost base as before and we will also be able to recycle 10 percent effluent back to fermentation without damaging the environment.
“This is a great achievement for us as well as the constructors as we understand it is not easy to achieve a 50 percent increase in capacity for a plant of this size. It shows that the project was done in an innovative manner.”
PressCane general manager Chris Guta described the project as timely, saying it would help them generate more revenue and transform their company.
“This project is important for us as it will transform our company to one whose profitability depends on sales volume and product diversity rather than margin based. This is important going forward as it would have been more expensive in the future.
“This expansion offers the company tremendous economic opportunities in the short, medium and long- term despite limitations imposed by the shortage of molasses which is the feedstock for production of ethanol,” he said.
Guta said PressCane will continue to work with local farmers to establish backward linkages in the sugarcane value chain as the expansion of the distillery places high demand on feedstock.
PCL, which owns the majority of shares in PressCane Limited, is focusing on achieving growth either through organic means or diversification and the 50 percent efficiency gain responds to at least three pillars of the group’s strategy.
PressCane Limited has been in the ethanol business since 2004 and has transformed from a loss making position in its first two years to a profit generating company especially from 2008 to the present. n