RNI develops jatropha estates to meet fuel needs

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) is developing jatropha plantations to meet its fuel needs of about 16 million liters a year, the company's senior director says.

RNI is a holding company of state enterprises engaged in plantations and the pharmaceutical industry.

Noegroho D. Soetardjo, RNI's deputy director for research and information systems, said here Thursday that the company was participating in a government-sponsored program called independent energy village (DME).

The DME program was launched by the government in February to encourage disadvantaged villages throughout Indonesia to produce their own alternative energy sources, including jatropha oil.

Under the scheme, villagers plant jatropha and process the seeds in a processing plant in each village. The scheme aims at developing underprivileged areas by creating more jobs, in addition to generating alternative energy.

Noegroho said at present the company used most of the jatropha seeds produced from the existing plantation areas to plant new lands, instead processing them into oil.

"Thus, we need to expand the plantations to produce more seeds," he added.

With the expansion, the jatropha plantations would be able to meet the company's fuel needs within the next few years.

This year, RNI will invest Rp 8 billion to expand the plantations from the current 4,000 hectares located in Central Java to 10,000 hectares by opening between three and four new areas in West Java and East Java. By 2010, it expects to operate 100,000 hectares of jatropha plantations.

To open each new area of 250 hectares, which can be planted with 500,000 jatropha trees and produce 2,250 tons of seeds, the company will need to invest about Rp 1.2 billion.

"We have so far managed to gradually reduce our dependence on fossil-based fuel by about 6 to 20 percent per year during the last four years," Noegroho added.

He explained that since 2003, the company, which operates 11 sugar factories with a total production of 235,000 tons per year, had utilized various sources to generate alternative energy, including wood shavings, rice husks and jatropha.

"Our company suffered Rp 19 billion (US$2.1 million) in losses in 2002 due to increased sugar production costs," he said. "This urged us to find substitute fuels to avoid greater losses."

Although the company has succeeded in producing alternative energy for its sugar factories, it is not yet making biodiesel for transportation. It produces crude jatropha oil (CJO) that needs to be processed further to become biodiesel.

"We would like to supply our CJO to oil companies such as Pertamina," Noegroho said. "But we have yet to set any target to do so since we are only able to produce less than 1,000 tons of CJO per month.

"We will try to satisfy our consumption first before supplying oil to other companies."

Next year, the company plans to develop another alternative energy source from vinasse -- liquid alcohol waste -- which can be converted into methane. (04)
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