Filipino, Japanese investors earmark P3.5B for coco-biofuel devt in northern Philippines

Written by Leilani Adriano / Correspondent
Thursday, 25 June 2009 23:44
cocomutsLAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte—After leading the way in renewable energy like wind power, coconut-biodiesel will soon be the next byword here as Japanese investors pledged to develop coconut farms and biodiesel plants in this northern Philippine province.If plans don’t miscarry, Pacific Bio-Fields Holdings Inc., a leading coconut-biodiesel developer in Japan and the Philippines has allotted an initial P3.5 billion for planting coconut trees in government-owned lands, said Rep. Roque Ablan of Ilocos Norte, First District.

Under a memorandum of understanding  signed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Coconut Authority, Bio-Energy Northern Luzon Inc. and Pacific Bio-Fields Corp. (Philippines), around 400,000 hectares of denuded and unutilized public lands in northern Luzon including this province will be planted with coconut trees. The project got the support of the Arroyo government when the President met with Japanese stakeholders in Tokyo, Japan.

By August, Ablan reported that a coconut mill will be constructed in Pasuquin, saying the project is expected to generate more jobs.

In 2008 a massive coconut-planting project was started in barangay Caunayan, Pagudpud, where about 1,500 hectares were planted with coconut seedlings.

The Bio-Energy North Luzon Inc., headed by its president, Salacnib Baterina, is implementing the planting of more coconuts for feedstock to produce coconut methyl ester (CME).

Based on a feasibility study done by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the coco-diesel plant is expected to produce at least 2,000 tons of CME per month.

The coconut-processing plant’s output will be exported to Japan. Based on Japanese standards, it accepts only CME as the biodiesel component for its diesel mix. Japanese law requires that 5 percent of CME shall be mixed with fossil diesel for its buses.

According to Japanese investors, Tokyo’s buses alone will need all the initial output of the plant. Japanese industries also prefer CME in their energy use.

Aside from coconut, the implementing company and its Japanese backers also plan to plant ginger, taro and pineapple between the coconut trees to maximize land use.

A study of the Austrian Bio-Fuels Institute in 2007, entitled “Innovative Biodiesel,” states that coconut crop is the ideal second-generation biodiesel feedstock.

The crop is fast-growing, and can typically be harvested within 3.5 years of planting and bear fruit continuously for more than 60 years. The crop also flourishes even when grown in poor-quality soil and marginal land normally unfit for conventional agriculture use.

Due to efficient land use, the growth of coconut trees does not compete with valuable food production, making it a sustainable fuel feedstock. Also, it is carbon-neutral as it is not derived from fossil fuels.

Compared with other energy crops, the study says that coconut crop has a significantly higher oil output. A hectare of coconut plantation can yield an estimated 4,420 liters of coconut oil per year, compared with 1,122 liters for rapeseed and 467 liters for soybean.

The coco biodiesel also offers better performance, is easier to refine and fares better in terms of fuel economy than other types of energy crops. Coconut oil behaves almost like diesel fuel with its smooth combustion performance behavior, and can act as an ignition improver when blended with conventional petrodiesel, and produces the least nitrogen-oxide emissions among a large group of crop-derived oils, according to a European Commission project report.

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