Jakarta hopes to clean up with biodiesel fuel

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Vehicle owners in Jakarta will have the choice of buying a more environmentally friendly alternative to diesel fuel when state oil and gas company Pertamina starts selling biodiesel fuel in its gas stations in mid-May.

"It was decided in our last meeting with Pertamina and the Jakarta administration to start selling biodiesel fuel in all gas stations in Jakarta, most likely in time for National Awakening Day on May 20," State Minister for Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman was quoted by Antara as saying Monday.

The biodiesel will be a blend of petroleum diesel with oils extracted from plants such as oil palm or jatropha, and sold at a concentration of 5 percent plant oils to 95 percent petroleum diesel (called B5), and 10 percent plant oils to 90 percent petroleum diesel (B10).

Kusmayanto said he hoped biodiesel fuel would help the country break away from its dependence on fossil fuel, particularly since the majority of diesel fuel was still imported.

"With world crude oil prices at about US$70 a barrel, you can imagine how much the government must subsidize to meet the need for 14.5 million kiloliters of diesel fuel, 17 million kl of gasoline, and 10 million kl of kerosene each year," he said during the launch of pure plant oil (PPO) as an alternative fuel by the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).

It is still unclear, however, how Pertamina will meet the expected supply of 2,000 kl diesel fuel per day since there is no major biodiesel producer.

One of the most readily available biodiesel sources is crude palm oil, but at Rp 6,000 (about 69 U.S. cents) a liter it is more expensive than subsidized diesel fuel at Rp 4,300 a liter.

Biodiesel made from jatropha (commonly known here as jarak pagar) at Rp 3,800 per liter would be more affordable for consumers, but supply for this type of fuel is uncertain since mass cultivation of the plant is still at an early stage.

Kusmayanto further said the Industry Ministry had pledged Rp 60 billion to build four biodiesel plants and is currently setting up tender procedures.

"The ministry is also trying to attract regional administrations to also put up money and land for the construction of plants in the regions," he said.

The head of the BPPT's engineering center, Soni Solistia Wirawan, earlier said his office had conducted extensive research on biodiesel using crude palm oil, and found the amount of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matters -- substances that cause air pollution -- to be substantially reduced.

Furthermore, since biodiesel fuel has properties similar to petroleum diesel fuels, owners of diesel engine cars, such as the Isuzu Panther and some types of Toyota Kijang, need not modify their cars' engines in any way before switching to biodiesel.

"The use of palm oil biodiesel increases the cetane number, meaning that ignition quality is improved," Soni added.
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