POME in Indonesia – A Valuable Renewable Energy Resource

The search for alternative sources of fuels to replace petroleum oil, as a means of curbing global warming has resulted in an unprecedented demand for biofuels worldwide.  An overwhelming endorsement by the United Nations (UN) for the use of biofuels has seen the construction of numerous biofuel installations globally based on a feedstock of vegetable oil, specially creating a demand for waste vegetable oil that attracts rebates in Europe.

Indonesia, the home of the largest producer of Palm oil in the world (32 Million tonnes recorded in 2015), generates a continuous stream of waste vegetable oil of many types, estimated to be over 1 million tonnes per year.  Of the various waste streams, Palm oil mill effluent (POME), a waste stream of the milling process, is a hot acidic effluent that contains oil, debris, nutrients, bacteria and water.  When discharged to waterways, POME can contaminate drinking water for humans and local fauna and be particularly harmful to aquaculture.  In addition, POME is typically released into the open-air from holding ponds, thereby releasing methane and hydrogen sulphide, all of which contribute to global climate change 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

If harnessed properly, POME can present itself as a valuable renewable energy resource.  POME can be used for the generation of electricity through the production of biogas by leveraging its high chemical & biological oxygen demand.  Another use of POME also exists in utilising the residual palm acid oil to make Biodiesel.  Although not an ideal feedstock due to its high Free Fatty Acid (FFA) content, Palm Acid Oil (PAO) is now a well-established feedstock for biodiesel and is the lowest cost raw material in the industry.

A major impediment to this project has been the arduous logistic issue in a country that stretches over 5000 km from east to west.  The extraction of the palm acid oil residue from the waste pond is a challenge by itself.  The strong rain forest weather poses new difficulties to be overcome in the land and waterways.

This paper deals with the pros and cons of the development of PAO in Indonesia as a viable renewable energy feedstock for the manufacture of Biodiesel.  Through the collective action and support between, the Crude Palm Oil (CPO) Mill owners, local community authorities, ministry of Environment and the Indonesia renewable Energy effort, this paper will highlight the opportunity that exists through the careful management of POME.  This paper will demonstrate the great economic, environmental and social value that can be generated for the Indonesian agricultural and industrial sectors.

Posted by: Dr Sive Sivandran, CEO , PT Energy Feeds Indonesia, Indonesia (30-Aug-2016)