Palm Oil Biomass Based Bioethanol as a Sustainable Energy and Minimize Trade Off Food-Fuel
It is undeniable that fossil fuel is a basic need for all people in the world. Along with the increasingly mobile lifestyle of humans, causing the need of fuel for the transportation sector also continues to increase. Gasoline is one type of fuel that is widely used in motor vehicles and most of cars. Indonesia’s gasoline consumption in 2018 will reach 34.15 million kiloliters and according to data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is expected to increase to 40 million kiloliters in 2020 and 43.15 million kiloliters in 2025.
Meanwhile, the availability of fossil fuel (raw material for gasoline) in Indonesia is running low. Even Pertamina has predicted that Pertamina’s oil reserves can only last nine years, if there is no new exploration. This will cause an even greater burden of import foreign exchange used to import fossil oil to fulfill the need of fossil fuel for vehicles. The implication is that Indonesia’s trade balance is more unhealthy because of the large deficit and will further cause other macroeconomic problems.
In addition to causing foreign exchange to drain and ignited other economic problems, Indonesia’s high dependence on gasoline or other fossil fuels is an increase in the contribution of CO2 emissions. Even though Indonesia is one of the countries that ratified the Paris Agreement and National Determined Contribution (NDC) in order to reduce carbon emissions.
Based on this background, it is necessary to develop biofuel as an alternative fossil energy that is low in emissions, renewable and based on local resources as an effort to reduce dependence on imports and create national energy security. One of the biofuel is bioethanol which is used to substitute gasoline.
Bioethanol is ethanol (ethyl alcohol) whose production process uses natural raw materials and biological processes, namely through the fermentation process with the help of microorganisms. The characteristics of bioethanol are volatile, flammable, soluble in water, not carcinogenic, and have no negative impact on the environment, and even able to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 18%.
In 2019, the United States and Brazil are the two largest bioethanol producer countries in the world with production volumes of 15.78 billion gallons and 8.57 billion gallons, respectively. If the United States bioethanol is corn based, while Brazil using sugar cane as its bioethanol feedstock. Brazil has focused and seriously produced bioethanol as a substitute for gasoline since the oil crisis in the era of the 1970s and until now Brazil has implemented a mandatory bioethanol to substitute gasoline as much as 27 percent (E27). Neighboring Indonesia, Thailand has also successfully developed cassava-based bioethanol programs.
Following in the success story of other countries in producing bioethanol, the Indonesian government has also begun the development of bioethanol since 2006. The real commitment of the Indonesian government is also shown by the target of implementing bioethanol, referring to the the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources’ Regulation 12/2015, the target of using bioethanol in 2025 by 20 percent and increasing to 50 percent in 2050.
Bioethanol developed in Indonesia from sugar cane and palm water which produces sugar (glucose), as well as strach from cassava and corn. Beside glucose and starch, bioethanol can also be produced from cellulose which is an organic compound forming plant walls and wood that is commonly found and the price is relatively cheap. Cellulose potential is contained in oil palm biomassa such as stems and empty bunches.
Palm stems can be used as a bioethanol feedstock because they contain starch and cellulose with a fairly high cellulose content reaching 86.03 percent. By through the process of hydrolysis that is changing the structure of cellulose into glucose which can be achieved using acid addition which is dissolved at high temperature and pressure. Research Winarni et al. (2016) showed that the addition of surfactants to the hydrolysis of palm oil stems would increase reducing sugar content and ethanol content.
Bioethanol can also be produced by utilizing other waste produced from oil palm plantations, namely oil palm empty fruit bunches. In the study of Syafina et al. (2002) stated that oil palm empty fruit bunches contained cellulose which was quite high at 41.3-46.5 percent, hemicellulose at 25.3-33.8 percent, and lignin 27.6-32.5 percent. The cellulose and hemicellulose content in OPEFB can potentially be used as a source of reducing sugars through chemical or enzymatic processes and subsequently fermented into ethanol.
Devitria and Fatmi’s research (2018) revealed that the production of bioethanol made from empty bunches as feedstock is carried out through three stages, namely hydrolysis, fermentation and desitilation. In the fermentation process using microbial assistance and the type of microbial commonly used to produce bioethanol between Sacchraromyces cerevisae and Zymmomonas mobilis. However, in this study the production of bioethanol using bacteria isolated from peat soils of the Giam Siak Kecil Biosphere Reserve Bukit Batu Riau.
Badger’s research (2002) who stated that one ton of material containing 45 percent cellulose was able to produce 151 liters of bioethanol. One palm oil milling with a capacity of 60 tons/hour and operating hours of 20 hours/day can produce waste of around 300 tons/day or around 90,000 tons/year. So the potential of bioethanol that can be produced is 45,300 liters/day or around 13.95 million liters/year.
The above description again shows a million potentials produced by palm oil industry, especially in the energy sector. Not only oil as its main product can produce renewable energy that is low in emissions, namely biodiesel, but biomass that is actually waste can also be used as bioethanol substitute for fossil gasoline. Even the development of bioethanol from oil palm biomass guaranteed to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Another advantage of using the oil palm biomass based bioethanol (which its a waste) is that can be reduce potential for food-fuel trade off that can occur due to competition for palm oil as a raw material for food products and energy sources. The oil palm biomass as bioethanol feedstock also reduce food-fuel trade off that might be possible if using other feedstock such as sugarcane, cassava or corn, which is also widely used as a food product.
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