FAQs on BioFuel and Jathropa

What is a Biofuel?

Biofuel is any fuel that is derived from organic matter. It is a renewable source of energy unlike any other resources such as petroleum, coal and nuclear fuels. One advantage of Biofuel in comparison to most other fuel types is its biodegradability, and thus rendering it relatively harmless to the environment if spilled. It is made from biomass and primarily used for motive, thermal and power generation, with quality specifications in accordance with the Philippine National Standards (PNS).

What is an Alternative Fuel?

Alternative fuels are fuels that are not composed substantially of petroleum and thus, are alternatives to petroleum. As a substitute to this “traditional” fuel, it is expected to yield significant energy security and environmental benefits to its consumers.

Methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols blended with gasoline, diesel or other fuels are alternative fuels. Those that act as substitutes to petroleum, such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, and coal-derived liquid fuels are also considered as alternative fuels, as are fuels derived from biological materials and electricity.

Is there any agricultural products that can be tapped for biofuel use?

Agricultural products specifically grown for use as biofuels include:

  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Cassava
  • Sugarcane
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Coconut
  • Jatropha

What is the Alternative Fuels Program?

Energy Independence Agenda, which outlines the roadmap that willThe Alternative Fuels Program is one of the five (5) key components of the government’s lead to the country’s attainment of 60% energy self-sufficiency by 2010.

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a renewable and biodegradeable fuel extracted from plant oils. It is a natural hydrocarbon with little sulfur content, and can be used in diesel engines (in lower blends) without any need for engine modification.

The Philippines is the first country to use coconut as a source or feedstock for biodiesel, thus the inception of the government’s Coco-Biodiesel Program. Coco-biodiesel, or Coco-Methyl Ester (CME), is produced from the transesterification of coconut oil, using methyl alcohol in the presence of a catalyst. This process forces out the unwanted components (such as glycerine) in the oil, which could cause the gumming and clogging of fuel systems and eventually lead to engine failure in the long term.

Why use CME?

Blending CME into diesel seeks to reduce importation of petroleum products, which will turn into foreign exchange savings for the country. Initial estimates show that with the use of 1% biodiesel blend, foreign exchange savings from the country’s transport sector alone will amount to about US$23 million in 2007. This figure is expected to increase to US$49 million once the 2% biodiesel blend is implemented two years after.

Aside from foreign exchange savings, CME also has the potential to improve engine performance and consequently, air quality.

And because of CME’s unique properties such as lubricity, detergency and solvency, using CME will restore engine efficiency and optimize its combustion, translating to an average of 17% additional mileage for your vehicle.

What is the current demand for CME in the country?

At present, local demand for CME is estimated at 980,000 liters per annum, representing the CME requirements of government agencies’ vehicles. This is equivalent to 1.7% of the total CME production capacity.

What is the current supply of CME in the country?

Existing capacity for producing coco-biodiesel is estimated at 111 million liters per annum. This supply is from three (3) firms accredited by the DOE to produce CME. This combined capacity is enough to meet the projected 40 million liters of CME needed by the transport sector in 2007.

What other feedstock for Biodiesel is being considered by the government?

To ensure sustainability of the biodiesel program, the government is presently studying other feedstocks such as Jatropha Curcas or “Tuba-Tuba” as a potential source for local biodiesel production.

What is Jatropha Curcas?

Jatropha Curcas is a non-edible plant that grows mostly in tropical countries like the Philippines. Jatropha Curcas is resistant to drought and can easily be planted or propagated through seeds or cuttings. It starts producing seeds within 14 months, but reaches its maximum productivity level after 4-5 years. The plant remains useful for around 30-40 years.

As potential source for biodiesel, the Jatropha plant can produce an oil content of 30-58%, depending on the quality of the soil where it is planted. Its seeds yield an annual equivalent of 0.75 to 2 tons of biodiesel per hectare.

Based on a March 2006 study commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), potential areas for jatropha plantation in the Philippines is at 2 million hectares. If farmers will be encouraged to plant even in field boundaries or hedges and to practice intercropping, a total of 5 million hectares can be utilized for the jatropha plant.

With 1.1 million hectares dedicated to jatropha, 5.5 million metric tons (MMT) of biodiesel feedstock can be produced. Five million hectares can yield up to 25 MMT of biodiesel feedstock.

At present, a total of 360 hectares of land are planted with Jatropha in the country, found in the following areas: 200 hectares in General Santos, 27 hectares in Camarines Sur, 120 hectares in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, 5 hectares in Dacong Cogon, Negros Occidental, and aside from locally-grown jatropha in Quezon Province.

Why use Jatropha?

Benefits of jatropha as biodiesel include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as of the country’s oil imports. Local production of jatropha is also practical because as a non-food crop, it will not compete with food supply demands. It can also grow on marginal and degraded land, leaving prime agricultural lots for food crops while at the same time restoring the marginal and degraded land’s fertility.

What are the current government initiatives on Jatropha?

Government is taking careful, measured steps in exploring the use of jatropha as biodiesel feedstock, as the following initiatives show:

The PNOC EDC has a 5-hectare pilot plantation in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, which is being carried out in partnership with D1 Oils Asia Pacific, a subsidiary of D1 Oils Plc of the United Kingdom, and the Dacongcogon Producers’ Cooperative and Marketing Association, an agricultural cooperative based in Negros Occidental.

Preparatory phase of other PNOC-EDC jatropha field trials in its geothermal project sites in Leyte, Negros Oriental, Sorsogon and Kidapawan, North Cotabato are currently on-going for the agronomic requirements and site conditions of jatropha, while the DOE works to draft the implementing rules and regulations of the Biofuels Law.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) also sent a team to India last April 2006 to study the different agriculture and production technologies of India, which is already using Jatropha for Biodiesel production. Other institutions, such as the University of the Philippines-Los Baños Agriculture Department, are also currently studying the different varieties of jatropha and its agriculture management, systems and production technology. Most recently, the PNOC Board approved the 2007 budget of the PNOC Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), which will be allocated for the funding of jatropha mega nurseries, as investment share in the planned biodiesel refinery, and for research and development activities.

The DOE’s current research and development efforts are also focused on testing the oil production capacities of local jatropha varieties, to determine which of them will produce the most oil for biodiesel. Two local varieties of jatropha are now being studied for local propagation, namely “tuba-tuba” (jatropha curcas) and “tapul”.

The Technical Committee on Petroleum Products and Additives (TCPPA) has also started formulating the Jatropha biodiesel standards that will allow the high-quality local production of Jatropha biodiesel.

What are the other uses of Jatropha?

The use of jatropha on the village level is also a possible application, and government is considering the village-level production potential of jatropha for firing cooking stoves. The “village-level production potential” refers to the process where the community could extract jatropha fuel without esterification, and directly use the extracted fuel oil to fire cooking stoves. The development of such an extraction technology, however, has yet to be assessed. Further study is also being done on this process and its impacts to health, as the toxicity of its emission has yet to be determined.

For more information, contact:

Department of Energy
Alternative Fuel Division and Philforest
Old Namria Bldg.,Lawton Ave, Fort Bonifacio, Makati
Tel nos: 889-3573, 889, 4087 (fax)
Web: www.doe.gov.ph

Dept.of Agriculture
D.A. Compound, Elliptical Rd.,
Diliman,Quezon City
Tel. Nos. (632) 929-6065 to 67 / 920-3991 / 928-1134
Web: www.da.gov.ph

source: DOE, DA

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