Biomass waste by-products generated from palm oil mills (PKS), such as empty fruit bunches (EFBs), palm kernel shells(PKS) and palm oil mill effluent (POME),are no longer considered waste products, but instead joint products because of their added value. The established practice is to return the EFBs to the plantation to be used as organic fertilizer. The shells and palm pressed fibers (PPF) are repurposed as fuel for the boiler sat palm oil mills to generate power. Meanwhile, the POME is reused as fertilizer and distributed to oil palm plantations.
The reutilization of by-products generated by palm oil mills is regulated by Environment Ministerial Decree No. 28/2003 on Technical Guidelines for POME Utilization on Oil Palm Plantation Lands, as well as by Environment Ministerial Decree No. 29/2003 on Guidelines, Requirements and Licensing Procedure for POME Utilization on Oil Palm Plantation Lands.
POME has also been utilized to generate bioelectricity to meet the energy needs of villages in the vicinity of plantations. The biomass by-products from palm oil mills are processed in biogas tanks to produce methane for generating electricity (Figure).Many oil palm plantations in the regional centers of the national palm oil industry, such as North Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra, Jambi and Kalimantan, presently produce bioelectricity from the by-products of palm oil mills. The development of POME-generated bioelectricity still continues today and into the foreseeable future.
The production of bioelectricity at POME-biogas power plants has two-pronged benefits. Using the by-products from palm oil mills to generate bioelectricity cleans the environment, reduces the carbon emissions of oil palm plantations and preserves microorganisms in the biogas tank. The second benefit is that generating bioelectricity has fostered the energy security of rural areas as well as the local economy, while using locally produced renewable energy sources reduces the use of fossil energy as well as the carbon emitter generates. Distributing bioelectricity has also helped the government by contributing to the rural electrification rate.
It goes without saying that not all palm oil mills have been equipped with biogas power plants because of the high investment required. There are also palm oil mills that have yet to install a proper effluent management facility. It is expected that the newly issued government policy (Energy and Mineral Resources Ministerial Decree No. 12/2017), with the government objective to purchase bioelectricity, will serve as an incentive for businesses to utilize POME to generate bioelectricity.