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Overview of Biofuel Technologies for Indonesia. Tatang H. Soerawidjaja Head of Center for Research on Sustainable Energy, Institut Teknologi Bandung, and Chairman of Indonesian Biodiesel Forum tatanghs@che.itb.ac.id , hstatang@yahoo.com.

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overview of biofuel technologies for indonesia

Overview of Biofuel Technologies for Indonesia

Tatang H. Soerawidjaja

Head of Center for Research on Sustainable Energy, Institut Teknologi Bandung, and Chairman of Indonesian Biodiesel Forum

tatanghs@che.itb.ac.id, hstatang@yahoo.com

EAS Asia Biomass Seminar – Indonesia 1st Follow-up Workshop

“Biofuel Promotion in Indonesia of Sustainable Development”

Hotel Nikko, Jakarta, 17 – 18 March 2008

what and how important
What and How important ?.
  • Biofuel  fuel made/derived from biomass.

Biofuel is part of Bioenergy (includes biomass-based electricity).

  • Among all renewable energy resources, biomass is the only resource that can be converted in a relatively direct way into fuels (to substitute petroleum fuels).

Recall : Transportation sector is heavily dependent on fuel !.

 Unique position of biofuel (compared to other renewable energy sources).

biofuel industry
Biofuel Industry
  • A relatively new and, thus, infant industry.
  • One of the mainstream development in the energy sector of the whole world.  An industry with a (bright) future.
  • It is not an option of energy development !. It is a must; there is no other choice.


  • South-East Asia, in particular Indonesia, has a large potential to become one of the world biofuel center. [South-East Asia + Brazil  “the Middle-East” of biofuels !.]


  • Most economists (and economy ministers) still consider biofuel development as just an option in country’s (energy) development !.

and thus….

  • Interdisciplinary brainstormings involving technologists, economists, and environmentalists are needed !.

 The question is not “should we develop domestic biofuel industry?” but rather “how should we nurture and develop a strong and sustainable domestic biofuel industry?”.

main reason for developing utilizing biofuels
Main reason for developing/utilizing biofuels

Developed countries :

  • Greenhouse (CO2) gas emission abatement.

Developing countries :

  • Energy security
  • Improving balance of payment.
  • Jobs creation.
  • Poverty alleviation.
for developing countries
For developing countries :
  • Domestic market/utilization is more important than export.
  • Local electricity generation and household cooking are also important usage of biofuels.
  • Continued participation of small scale farmers in medium or large scale biofuel production should be ensured.
  • Leaving biofuel development solely to the private sector (B to B) will not match their environmental and social potential.
  • Biofuel industry structure and development scenario should be carefully designed through involvement of all stakeholders.

In the case of biofuels for transportation, biodiesel and bioethanol, the critical task of the government is to provide the infant biofuel industry with a stable initial market !.

counterpart biofuels of petroleum fuels
Counterpart biofuels of petroleum fuels

The biofuels and their technologies will be treated as in the above order.

biodiesel in the widest scientific notion
Biodiesel in the widest scientific notion
  • Any diesel engine fuel made from bioresources (or derived from biomass).

Of course :

  • The fuel has to be already made/modified to meet certain qualities demanded by the engine.
  • Or the engine has to be specially adapted for utilizing the fuel.
primitive or zeroth generation biodiesel

Pure Plant Oil (PPO) or

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO)

Primitive or zeroth generation biodiesel ?
  • 1900 : The pioneer, Rudolf Diesel, showed that his newly invented engine could run with peanut oil as fuel.

However, recall that :

  • His engine was stationary, of low speed (< 300 rpm), and looked quite difference from the diesel engine of our modern days.
thus today
Thus, today ……
  • PPO or SVO, i.e. vegetable oils purified from phosporous (degummed), free fatty acids, and unsaponifiable matters, is suitable only for non-automotive, constant load, low- to medium-speed ( 1500 rpm) diesel engines that are specially adapted to use the fuels (e.g. fuel line heating, two-tank system).
  • Lister-type diesel engines : special-type of (low to medium speed) small diesel engines that can operate PPO/SVO and could be used to run small electric generator.

Indonesian tentative quality standard for pure plant oil for non-automotive, constant load, low- to medium-speed ( 1500 rpm) diesel engines that are specially adapted to use the fuels


For small farmer pressing two or more type of oilseeds, screwpress is actually not suitable. The more appropriate presses are :

Bielenberg ram press

Hydraulic box press

fatty acids methyl ester fame biodiesel
Fatty Acids Methyl Ester (FAME) Biodiesel
  • Diesel engine fuel consisting of methyl ester of fatty acids and meets quality standard of the target market.

 Biodiesel in the current commercial meaning.

 First generation biodiesel.

  • Vehicle manufacturers, and most diesel engine manufacturers, are more willing to support use of FAME biodiesel. On the other hand, they state that “raw and, even, refined vegetable oils (i.e. PPO/SVO ) are not biodiesel and should be avoided”.

Main feedstocks : Oils of rapeseed or canola (Europe), soybean (USA), Palm and coconut (South-East Asia); all are edible.

  • Jatropha curcas is presently the most popular candidate for non edible feedstock.
  • However, according to M.M. Azam, A. Waris, and N.M. Nahar [Biomass and Bioenergy 29, 293 - 302 (2005)], the order of potential productivity of non edible oil plants/crops are : Pongamia pinnata (Indon.: Mabai), 5499 kg/ha/yr; Calophyllum inophyllum (Nyamplung), 4680; Azadirachta indica (nimba), 2670; Jatropha curcas (Jarak pagar), 2500; Ziziphus mauritiana (Widara), 1371.
potential sources of fatty oil raw material for biodiesel in indonesia
Potential sources of fatty-oil raw material for biodieselin Indonesia

E Edible fat/oil, NE  Non-Edible fat/oil

hydrogenated vegetable oil hvo
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO)
  • For petroleum refining corporations, biodiesel seizes a portion of market formerly monopolized by them and, worse, has the attribute of “clean fuel” (in contrast to their “dirty/polluting” petroleum diesel).

 Network of (multinational) petroleum refining corporation developed and promote the product and technology of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) or Biohydrofined Diesel or Green Diesel. Large minimum economic size !. ( back into the centralized, giant-scale industry era)

  • Some automobile manufacturers [who are quite familiar and thus feel comfortable with these fuels] support the HVO development and utilization.
fame biodiesel with improved stability
FAME Biodiesel with improved stability
  • Hot issue : most FAME biodiesels have weaker oxidative and thermal stability than petroleum diesel.
  • HVO or green diesel, on the other hand, has even better oxidative and thermal stability than petroleum diesel.

 If not improved, FAME biodiesel will lose in competition with HVO !.

  • Ways to improve :

 adding (more) antioxidant additives, or

 hydrogenating the polyunsaturated fatty acid chains to, at least, monounsaturated ones (iodine value  80). The process has been traditionally applied in the margarine and shortenings industry.

Or ………
  • Instead of hydrogenating the FAME at the biodiesel factories, the vegetable oil raw materials themselves could already be hydrogenated at the production sites.
  • Will open the opportunity of commercial utilization of various relatively high-iodine fatty oils (e.g. oils of kapok seed, rubber seed, candlenut, banucalag).
  • Suitable method : Electrochemical hydrogenation !. Clean, save (no danger of hydrogen), could be done in small scale/farm (recall the elctroplating business). Electricity could be generated on site from available renewable resources : microhydro, PPO-fueled Lister-type diesel generator, or biogas-fueled generator.
  • The technology has yet to be developed !.
fatty acid compositions w of some fatty oils
Fatty acid compositions (%-w) of some fatty-oils.

I.V.  Iodine Value; S.V.  Saponification Value

second generation biodiesel
Second generation biodiesel
  • When people cultivate oil crops, sugar crops, or starch crops to yield/obtain either food or fuel feedstocks, the largest single constituent produced is invariably lignocellulose.
  • If oils, sugars, and starches are harvested, the lignocellulose is left behind as an agricultural residue and, at best, usually underutilized.
  • The most effective beneficiation of bioresources to produce biofuels would be achieved when we could utilize the lignocellulose.
  • Second generation biofuels is those made from lignocellulose.

The second generation biodiesel is BTL (BTL  Biomass-To-Liquids) diesel oil : a hydrocarbon diesel fuel produced from lignocellulosic biomass (oilpalm empty fruit bunches, bagasse, rice straw, corn stover, wood, etc.) through gasification plus Fischer-Tropsch synthesis technologies.

  • Has the possibility of commercially applicable at medium scale capacities and, thus, would complement further the present biodiesel industry.
  • The technology is now under vigorous development supported by government funding, particularly in the EU (e.g. Germany).
  • The EU biofuel target (10 % biofuel in the fuel mix by 2020) has, among other, the condition that this technology has become commercially available.
Bioethanol ethanol made from bioresources.
  • Gasohol blends of dry/absolute bioethanol with gasoline at alcohol content of up to 22 %-volume.

EX  gasohol with X %-volume of dry bioethanol.

  • Gasohol can be utilized directly on gasoline cars without (significant) engine modification.
  • Hydrous fuel ethanol  alcohol content 85 – 95 %-vol, the rest is water. For specially adapted gasoline engine. Only utilized commercially in Brazil.
  • ETBE  ethyl tert-buthyl ether  gasoline octane enhancer; more environmentally friendly than MTBE. ETBE can be made from bioethanol and isobutene (component of refinery cracked gas).
first and second generation bioethanol
First and second generation bioethanol
  • First generation bioethanol is made from sugary and/or starchy resources. Thus, has a potential to compete with food provision.
  • Second generation bioethanol is made from lignocellulosic resources (oilpalm empty fruit bunches, bagasse, rice straw, corn stover, wood, etc.). Thus, would not compete with food provision. The technology is under vigorous development; probably already commercial early in the next decade.
  • The government of USA, announcing “20 in 10” target last year (2007), is focusing on the development of 2nd generation bioethanol technology.
small scale farmers role in 1 st generation bioethanol
Small scale farmers role in 1st generation bioethanol
  • The fermentative technology of making ethanol from sugary saps and starchy materials has been the traditional craft of numerous farmers in many parts of the country for centuries.
  • However, preparing and guaranteeing the quality of fuel grade dry bioethanol will still be not easy and, therefore, not recommended.
  • In the “plasmas and nucleus” business model/scheme, the plasm farmers could be given the task to produce intermediate product of  85 %-volume ethanol. The nucleus unit then purify this to fuel grade dry bioethanol.
potential multipurpose energy crops in indonesia
Potential multipurpose energy crops in Indonesia
  • In anticipation of the second generation biofuel technologies and the increasing demand on bioactive natural products.
  • Category 1 : yields foodstuff and, during harvesting, produces large quantity of biomass residue. E.g. oilpalm, sugarcane, sweet sorghum, corn, Coix lacryma-jobi (hanjeli).
  • Category 2 : yields foodstuff and fast growing (firewood crop or short-rotation coppice). E.g. Moreinga oleifera (kelor) and Cajanus cajan (kacang hiris).
  • Category 3 : yield nonedible oil and either fast growing or produces (bioactive) chemical products. E.g. Pongamia pinnata, Azadirachta indica, Ziziphus mauritiana, Calophyllum inophyllum. Also, kapok (Ceiba pentandra).

 Need R & D, especially those of categories 2 and 3 !.


Kerosene is currently still the main cooking fuel of most village inhabitants and low income people in the urban areas of Indonesia.

  • Heavily subsidized (at least Rp.5000/liter). Kerosene subsidy, therefore, comprises a very significant portion of the total subsidy given to petroleum fuels.
  • The government is presently conducting a program to replace kerosene with LPG. However, even if succesful, this program will presumably only replace the use of kerosene for household cooking in relatively large cities.
  • Other kind of convenient fuels are needed to replace kerosene as cooking fuel in the suburban areas and relatively remote villages.
  • Gaseous end product of anaerobic degradation/digestion of biomass by (a consortium) microbes. The technology for generating biogas is relatively simple.
  • Biogas is an ideal substitute for kerosene as a household cooking (and lighting) fuel : it gives a hot, clean flame that does not dirty pots or irritate the eyes.
  • The replacement is precisely in accordance with the instinctive idea of most people : as a person’s welfare increase, household cooking fuel shift from solid (fuelwood) to liquid (kerosene) and then to gas (LPG or city gas).

Therefore, promotion of widespread small-scale generation and utilization of biogas should be a part of biofuel development program in Indonesia.

  • Due to recent large increase in kerosene price, production and utilization of biogas based on cow-dung is presently balooning but, in the last 2 years, reach only less than 1 % of Indonesian cow farmers.
  • There is a need to demonstrate that biogas could also be produced not only from dung but also from other bioresources (plant-derived raw materials) such as oilmeal and tapioca waste.
  • Biogas can also be used in engine to generate electricity and drive machinery or water pumps.
  • Some plant species produced (hydrocarbon) oils having combustion/burning characteristics nearly similar to kerosene.
  • Example : cubeb oil from rinu/kemukus/piper cubeba, oils from fruit-seed of Pittosporum sp., gurjun balsam oil (minyak keruing) from Diphterocarpus sp. (keruing), sindora oil (minyak sindur) from Sindora sp. The main components of these oil are terpene hydrocarbons.
  • Cubeb and Pittosporum oils seems most attractive to be explored in the near term.
  • Electrochemical hydrogenation would also be an ideal technique to upgrade the quality (smoke point).
last but surely not the least
Last but surely not the least
  • What happened in Brazil, USA, and EU has shown that biofuel development in a country is very much dependent on the (great) vision of the top leaders of the government !.
  • Hopefully, our government top leaders will have similar vision.