To replace fossil fuels, oil palm plantations only produce the first generation of biofuel (biodiesel), which is unsustainable because it competes for land with food production.

Untuk mengganti fosil-fuel, perkebunan kelapa sawit hanya menghasilkan biofuel generasi pertama (biodiesel) yang tidak berkelanjutan karena bersaing penggunaan untuk pangan.

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In order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, a global movement to replace fossil fuel with biofuel is needed. The use of the first generation of biofuel, namely from agricultural and plantation production, is considered unsustainable because it requires a trade-off between fuel and food. Therefore, policies of the European Union Renewable Energy Directives (RED) and the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) recommend the use of the second generation of biofuel, such as biomass, as being more sustainable (Naik, et al, 2010).Indonesian oil palm plantation fulfill that role and contribute to the future global energy policy. Besides producing the first generation of biofuel (biodiesel, FAME), Indonesian oil palms also produce the second generation of biofuel (biomass) in a very large quantity, even bigger than the combined biomass volume produced by soybeans, rapeseed and sunflowers.

Oil palm plantations produce oil palm biomass in the form of empty fruit bunches, shells and fiber, oil palm trunks and oil palm fronds. Research results by Foo-Yuen Ng et al. (2011) show that each ha of oil palm plantation produces biomass in the form of about 16 tons of dry substance per year. The oil palm biomass production is three times bigger that the production of crude palm oil (CPO), which is the main product of oil palm.

With about 11 million ha of oil palm plantations in Indonesia in 2015, biomass production reached 167 million tons each year (Figure 1). Oil palm biomass can be processed into bioethanol to replace premium fuel such as gasoline. According to the experience of the KL Energy Corporation in 2007, each ton of dry biomass substance can produce 150 liters of ethanol. This means oil palm biomass production of up to 167 million tons per year can produce 25 million kiloliters of ethanol every year, nearly 60 percent of the premium needs of Indonesia. With such a big volume of ethanol from oil palm biomass, don’t Indonesian oil palm plantations have the great potential to become ethanol or biopremium “mines”?

Besides using biomass from oil palm plantations, there is also the potential to utilize palm oil mill effluent (POME) through methane capture to produce biogas and biomethane (Figure 2). The production 113 tons of POME per year can produce 3,179 million cubic meters of biogas each year. This biogas can reduce the consumption of natural gas or be used to generate electricity (bioelectricity).

Figure 2:     Installation of liquid palm oil waste processing plant with biogas technology to produce bioelectricity in East Kalimantan province

In other words, oil palm plantations produce sustainable renewable energy, namely biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas/bioelectricity. These three renewable sources of energy can replace fossil energy. Biodiesel would replace diesel oil, bioethanol would replace premium and biogas would replace natural gas. The uniqueness of the oil palm plantations is that they can jointly produce them with no trade-off. As long as the sun still shines, the production of palm oil and biomass will be sustainable so that biofuel production will also be sustainable

Untuk mengurangi emisi gas rumah kaca global, diperlukan gerakan global mengganti energi fosil dengan biofuel. Penggunaan energi biofuel generasi pertama (first generation biofuel) yakni dari produksi pertanian/perkebunan dinilai tidak berkelanjutan karena akan menciptakan persaingan penggunaan hasil pertanian untuk pangan dan energi (tradeoff fuelfood). Oleh karena itu kebijakan energi Masyarakat Uni Eropa (European Union Renewable Energy Directives, RED) maupun di Amerika Serikat (US Renewable Fuels Standard, RFS) merekomendasikan penggunaan energi biofuel generasi kedua (second generation biofuel) seperti biomas sebagai energi paling berkelanjutan dunia (Naik, et al. 2010).

Kebun sawit Indonesia memberikan peran dan kontribusinya dalam kebijakan energi masa depan dunia tersebut. Selain menghasilkan energi generasi pertama (biodiesel, FAME), kebun sawit Indonesia juga menghasilkan energi generasi kedua (biomas) yang cukup besar dan bahkan lebih besar dari volume biomas gabungan yang dihasilkan kedelai, repeseed dan bunga matahari.

Kebun sawit menghasilkan biomas sawit berupa tandan kosong (empty fruit bunch), cangkang dan serat buah (oil palm fibre and shell), batang kelapa sawit (oil palm trunk) dan pelepah kelapa sawit (oil palm fronds). Hasil study Foo-Yuen Ng, et al (2011) menunjukan bahwa untuk setiap hektar kebun sawit dapat menghasilkan biomas sekitar 16 ton bahan kering (dry matter) per tahun. Produksi biomas sawit tersebut sekitar tiga kali lebih besar dari produksi minyak sawit (CPO) sebagai produk utama kebun sawit. Dengan luas kebun sawit Indonesia tahun 2015 sekitar 11 juta hektar, maka produksi biomas dapat mencapai 167 juta ton setiap tahun (Gambar 1).

Biomas kebun sawit dapat diolah menjadi bioetanol (pengganti premium/gasoline). Menurut pengalaman KL Energy Corporation (2007) setiap ton bahan kering biomas dapat menghasilkan 150 liter etanol. Hal ini berarti dengan produksi biomas kebun sawit Indonesia sebesar 167 juta ton per tahun, dapat menghasilkan 25 juta kilo liter etanol setiap tahun atau hampir 60 persen dari kebutuhan premium di Indonesia. Dengan volume produksi etanol dari biomas sawit yang demikian, bukankah kebun sawit Indonesia sebagai “tambang” etanol atau biopremium besar?

Selain biomas dari kebun sawit juga potensial memanfaatkan POME (Palm Oil Mill Effluent) melalui tanki digester biogas (methane capture) untuk menghasilkan biogas/biomethane (Gambar 2). Dengan produksi POME sebesar 113 juta ton per tahun maka mampu menghasilkan 3.179 juta kubik biogas setiap tahun. Biogas ini dapat mengurangi konsumsi gas alam atau digunakan untuk pembangkit tenaga listrik (biolistrik).

Dengan kata lain kebun sawit penghasil energi terbarukan secara berkelanjutan yakni biodiesel, bioetanol dan biogas/ biolistrik. Ketiga energi terbarui tersebut dapat menjadi pengganti energi tak terbarui (energi fosil). Biodiesel pengganti solar, bioetanol pengganti premium dan biogas pengganti gas bumi. Uniknya biofuel kebun sawit tersebut, diproduksi secara bersama (joint product) dan tidak saling menggantikan (tradeoff). Sepanjang matahari masih bersinar, produksi minyak sawit dan produksi biomas akan berkelanjutan. Sehingga produksi biofuel juga akan berkelanjutan.

Figure Sustainable oil palm plantation generation of first and second generation renewable energy

Sustainable oil palm plantation generation of first and second generation renewable energy

Figure Installation of liquid palm oil waste processing plant with biogas technology to produce bioelectricity in East Kalimantan province

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