KARACHI: A record quantity of ethanol was exported last year at an average price of $650 per tonne, fetching the country a hefty amount of around $425 million.
Analysts believe Pakistani ethanol exporters would continue to dominate Asian markets for years to come.
According to official figures, ethanol export up to December 31, 2018 stood at 653,443 tonnes against 572,056 tonnes a year earlier. This is the highest ever export of ethanol ever since Pakistan entered the world market in 2002-03.
Presently around 18 distilleries – either operating independently or attached with sugar mills — are engaged in producing three grades of ethanol including anhydrous, extra neutral alcohol (ENA) and industrial alcohol (B grade). Besides, a blend of ENA and B grade is also being produced.
These grades are produced at different refining stages. Anhydrous, which is 99.97 per cent pure, is mostly produced in the country and its demand is also much higher because it could also be blended in motor gasoline. The other two grades – ENA which is 96.5pc pure and industrial alcohol 92pc pure – are used for making of perfumes and spirit, respectively.
Brazil is the biggest producer of ethanol in the world followed by India and Thailand. Whereas ethanol is being widely used as motor gasoline in Brazil, the Indian government has also made it compulsory upon the MNCs importing petroleum products to blend ethanol up to 5-10 per cent in the motor gasoline (petrol). This has reduced their import bill of petroleum products.
Talking to Dawn, Terminal Association of Pakistan (TAP) Chairman Muhammed Kasim Hasham said the value-addition in molasses has made it possible for the country to earn higher foreign exchange through export of ethanol.
There was a time when the sugar industry used to throw away molasses in pits made outside their units but with introduction of technology and setting up of distilleries in the country today is earning million of dollars on export of ethanol, he said.
Giving an example, Mr Hasham said that out of 10 tonnes of molasses, two tonnes of ethanol is processed which fetches very high price in the world market.
He further said that ethanol being highly inflammable needs special safety measures for its haulage from distillery up to ports. For this many exporters are using state of the art ISO tanks which are directly loaded on vessels.