The Greatest of Economic Potential in Spent Bleaching Earth
The process of refining/distillation crude palm oil (CPO/CPKO) that occurs at the refinery plant uses auxiliary materials in the form of citric acid and Bleaching Earth (BE). One of the auxiliary materials namely BE or fuller earth is a type of clay and is very active, which have role as an absorbent used in the bleaching process to improve the appearance, aroma, taste and stability. The additional auxiliary material aims to remove sap (degumming) and heavy metals, and absorb pigments (carotenoids, chlorophyll) in palm oil. From the refinement process will produce a main product in the form of RBD Palm Oil (RBDPO), by product in the form of Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD) and solid waste namely Spent Bleaching Earth (SBE).
SBE is waste in the form of sand which still contains oil and metal residues, namely Silica, Aluminum oxide, Ferioxide, Magnesia and water. Although the metal is not classified as a heavy metal, environmental activists have been highlighting the large volume of waste and oil residue which has the risk of being explosive and flammable.
Based on Government Regulations 101/2014, SBE is categorized as Hazardous and Toxic Material from Specific Specific Sources with code B413. SBE waste is classified as Category 2 of Hazardous And Toxic Material waste, meaning that it has delayed effects and indirect impacts on humans and the environment. Although, if we compared with other countries such Malaysia, India and the European Union, SBE’s status not classifies as hazardous and toxic material. That waste produced by the Malaysian refinery still categorized as solid waste from refinery which the processing is regulated in the Solid Waste Regulation (SWR) so that the waste can be reused into high economic value products.
Even though it has the status of B3 waste, actually its a hidden treasure generated by the refenery industry whose utilization has not been optimal. The SBE waste management technology to produce new resources that can be utilized is the Solvent Extraction (SE) technology. This technology is also used by the SBE waste processing industry in Malaysia. Through this technology, components in SBE can be separated so that they can produce two products with two different phases, the liquid phase namely Recovered Oil (R-Oil) and the solid phase namely De-oiled Bleaching Earth (De-Obe).
Both of these SBE waste treatment products can be used as raw materials to produce various high economic value products. In the research of Kheang et al. (2007), Adadetuyi et al. (2014) and Suryani et al, 2017 stated that the potential product of R-Oil (HS 1522.00.90) or Industrial Vegetable Oil can be reused as feedstock (raw material) for biodiesel. In addition, based on research by Abdulbari et al. (2011) dan Widyawati & Ufidian (2017) also suggest that R-Oil can also be used as an environmentally friendly lubricant or known as biolubricants.
Meanwhile, the solid phase of SBE processing, namely De-OBE, can be directly used for landfills in land or road compaction processes. The silica and alumina dust content in De-OBE is also suitable for use as a substitute for fine aggregate natural sand) to produce various kinds of construction/ building materials. Research by Rokiah et al. (2013); Sumarno et al. (2017) and Ashari et al. (2017) stated that De-OBE can be used as a raw material for concrete. In addition, a similar research conducted by Tee (2010) showed that the construction material that can be produced from De-OBE is cement, while Abrar & Nuryasin (2019) also showed that brick can produced from SBE processing.
Nutrient content of N, P, K, C: N ratio, balanced pH in SBE and De-OBE has the potential to be used as raw material for bio-organic fertilizer as was done in the research of Cheong et al. (2013) and Loh et al. (2015). In addition to organic fertilizer, in the research of Purba et al. (2018) and Anugrah et al. (2020) which utilizes the higher level of silica content in De-OBE can also be used as raw material for NPK fertilizer.
De-OBE which still contains palm oil can also be directly mixed with soybean meal and other ingredients to produce nutritious animal feed (Chang et al, 2006). Damayanti’s research (2019) also provides an example of using De-OBE products as Reactivation of Bleaching Earth / RBE or a form of recycled BE that can be reused in the CPO refining process so that no waste is wasted.
The great potential economic value that can be obtained from the use of SBE is unfortunate if it is not optimized. The market opportunity for processed products from SBE waste is also expected to be bright in the future, along with the development of market preferences that require the availability of eco-friendly and sustainable products. This should be an incentive for industry to invest in SBE waste management. However, the development of the waste processing industry, especially SBE waste and industries that use SBE as production input in Indonesia are still very low.
This was also confirmed by GIMNI reported that in the last 5 years there were only 3 units operating processing SBE waste using Solvent Extraction technology and only 2 units of which factory is still operating. In line with GIMNI, The Ministry of Enviromental and Forestry presents data that currently there are only 11 companies that have permits to manage SBE with a total capacity of 116 thousand tons per year, while the volume of SBE waste continues to increase every year. Meanwhile, the SBE processing industry in Indonesia is still relatively low, with only 11 companies has a license to manage SBE with a total capacity of 116 thousand tons per year.
The low absorption of SBE waste resulting in a pile up of SBE waste. This condition also has the potential to create legal risks both for the refinery industry and waste management service providers, if the waste is only left on open land. The case occurred in Marunda, Jakarta in January 2019 with a maximum of three years’ imprisonment and a three billion fine.
Therefore, government regulations/policies are needed as an incentive for investors to develop SBE processing industries in Indonesia, especially in the oil palm center region. The regulation needed is related to SBE’s status. The various empirical studies above show the large potential for the use of SBE as raw material to produce high economic value products. SBE waste is also more appropriately categorized as an intermediate product (feedstock) that can be used as a production input, not waste especially hazardous and toxic waste.
Good news comes from Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry 10/2020, stated that SBE waste is included in waste category which is shortened procedure for submitting an exception from the category of hazardous and toxic materials waste so that its status can be changed to non-hazardous waste or by-products. Although the Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry does not mention that SBE is removed from the hazardous and material toxic waste category, but this regulation becomes a step that can make it easier for companies or palm oil stakeholders to prove that SBE is not classified as hazardous and material toxic.
With government regulations/policies, it is clear that SBE status as a production input (not hazardous and toxic materials) it is hoped that it will become an incentive for investors in the development of the SBE processing industry in palm oil centers. It is also hoped that the development of the SBE waste processing industry can create large economic benefits such as increased value added, employment and increased income. Another impact of the development of the SBE processing industry is the opportunity for the palm oil industry (refinery to downstream industries) to become a green industry that has successfully implemented the principle of zero waste in its production process.
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