Jamaican Domestic Ethanol Fuel Feasibility and Benefits Analysis

Caley Johnson, Anelia Milbrandt, Yimin Zhang, Rob Hardison, Austen Sharpe

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Government of Jamaica asked the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to determine if the use of domestically produced ethanol motor fuel could help them achieve their goals to develop its economy and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The first step was to determine how much ethanol could be used by Jamaican vehicles in blends of 10% (E10- current blend level), 15% (E15), or 25% (E25). All blend levels are feasible and are being used or pursued in multiple countries. Building on projections made by the Johnson et al. (2019) business as usual scenario, the quantity of ethanol to be used in 2030 ranges from 84 million liters in E10 to 209 million liters in E25. All blend levels are assumed to achieve the same volumetric fuel economy because of verified efficiency improvements enabled by increased octane levels.The next step of the analysis was a resource assessment, which found sugarcane to be the most viable source of domestic ethanol for the 2030 timeframe. A theoretical maximum was set at 288 million L/year of sugarcane ethanol under a scenario where the amount of land devoted to sugarcane is returned to its 1960s levels of 60,000 ha and productivity is maximized at 4,800L/ha/yr. Numerous scenarios were run that achieved the needed quantities of ethanol by increasing the hectarage of sugarcane production or the yield from current levels. This theoretical maximum allows for all goal quantities of ethanol to be achieved. Scenarios were laid out whereby required ethanol is produced by hectares of land and yield that Jamaica has achieved in previous years and domestic sugar needs are still met. A GHG impact assessment was then performed for utilizing domestic cane ethanol at the prescribed blend levels. To do this, the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model was used to perform a lifecycle assessment. Replacing imported US corn ethanol with domestic sugarcane ethanol in E10 is estimated to yield between 29% and 57% GHG savings. For higher blends, replacing 1 L of gasoline with 1 L of domestically produced sugarcane ethanol yields a 79.5% GHG reduction. At a national level, the savings are estimated between 1% and 26% of Jamaica’s Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) goal, depending on blend level and other assumptions.Next, an economic analysis of domestic ethanol production was performed. The analysis focused on the net decrease in foreign expenditures due to replacing foreign ethanol, gasoline, and crude oil with domestic ethanol. Foreign expenditures are required to purchase equipment and fuel for sugarcane farming, ethanol production facilities, vehicle fueling, and vehicle upgrades. The amount of money kept in the Jamaican economy, and therefore available to recirculate and increase GDP, ranges from $60B to $138B USD in 2030, depending on the chosen blend level.Overall, ethanol demands in 2030 can likely be met for all blend levels without needing to increase sugarcane hectarage beyond historic maximums and keeping yields within realistic bounds. The GHG reductions would be substantial. And domestic ethanol would keep up to $138 million USD in the Jamaican economy that would otherwise be spent abroad. 2050 Scenarios require additional feedstocks and yield increases but show even greater GHG and financial benefits. However, Jamaica needs to overcome some substantial hurdles such as low sugar yields, committing government funding for capital or encouraging private investment in infrastructure, and developing a conducive policy environment for transitioning equipment to support and utilize higher ethanol blends.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages60
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5400-76011


  • cane
  • economic resource assessment
  • ethanol
  • greenhouse lifecycle
  • Jamaica
  • sugar
  • sugarcane


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