Indonesian Oil Palm Plantations Fields of Second Generation Biofuels

Indonesian oil palm plantations produce biomass of around 182 million tons per year and bioethanol of around 27 billion liters if processed further

In the policy of the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directives (RED) and the United States Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), it is recommended to use second generation biofuel such as biomass waste as the world’s most sustainable energy. The use of first generation biofuel that is from agriculture or plantation is considered unsustainable because it will create competition with food production (fuel and food trade-off).

Once again, Indonesia’s oil palm plantations have given significant contribution to settle the world’s future energy policy. In addition to producing first generation energy (biodiesel, FAME), Indonesia’s oil palm plantations also produce a second generation of biomass which is quite large and even greater than the volume of  combined biomass produced from soybeans, rapeseeds and sunflowers.

Oil palm plantations produce biomass wastes such as shells, fiber, press cake; empty fruit bunches, trunks, palm fronds, etc. A study by Foo-Yuen Ng, et al (2011) shows that in every hectare of oil palm plantations, approximately 16 tons of dry matter can be produced per year. Palm oil biomass production is about three times larger than palm oil (CPO) production which is the main product of oil palm plantations. Indonesia with around 11 million hectares of oil palm plantation areas in 2015 is expected to produce biomass up to 182 million tons every year.

Indonesian oil palm plantations are not only the world’s largest fields of biodiesel but also biomass stores. This unique field of oil palm biofuel is produced together with palm oil as a joint product but they are not each other’s substitute. An increase in palm oil production is also accompanied by the increase in biomass production.

Palm oil biomass can be processed into bioethanol which can become a substitute for premium gasoline. According to KL Energy Corporation (2007), every ton of dry biomass can produce 150 liters of ethanol. This means that with Indonesia’s palm oil biomass production over 182 million tons per year, it can produce 27 billion liters of ethanol every year. It can cover almost 60 percent of the needs for premium gasoline in Indonesia. With such amount of ethanol production from palm biomass, is it not Indonesian oil palm plantation a large field of ethanol or bio premium?

Moreover, oil palm plantations also have the potential to produce bio methane from POME (PKS waste). With POME production over 147 million tons per year, it can produce nearly 4127 million cubic of biogas per year. This biogas can reduce natural gas consumption.

Oil palm plantations are not only food sources but also the source of renewable energy namely biodiesel, bio ethanol and biogas. These three renewable energies can be the substitute for non-renewable energy such as fossil energy. Biodiesel is a substitute for diesel fuel; bio ethanol is a substitute for premium gasoline while biogas is a substitute for natural gas.

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