The Palm Scribe

Indonesian Palm Oil Industry Get Its First Bio-CNG Plant

bio-cng plant

Keen to reduce its non-reusable energy consumption and valorize its waste, a company is using its liquid waste from its palm oil processing as raw material for the Indonesian palm oil Industry’s first Bio-CNG plant.

The plant, built by PT. Dharma Satya Nusantara Tbk.  (DSN) in Muara Wahau, East Kalimantan, processes Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) into electricity and biomethane compressed natural gas (Bio-CNG), said Teguh Triono, DSN Group’s Sustainability Engagement Lead.

“This is the first Methane Compressed Natural Gas Plant or Bio-CNG Plant specifically in the palm oil industry in Indonesia,” Triono, who obtained a Ph.D in Ecology, Evolution & Systematics from the Faculty of Botany & Zoology, Australian National University, told The Palm Scribe in a written interview.

Triono said that the some Rp. 90 billion plant and its related infrastructures, which was completed in September can produce 1.2 MegaWatts of electricity and 280 cubic meters of Bio-CNG per hour. The Bio-CNG gas is secured safely in gas containers for mobility to transport around the company’s plantations.

“We are still at the commissioning stage. We have successfully reached the optimum capacity 280 m3/h for the Bio-CNG plant during the trial period. We expect to have the plant in full operation producing electricity and Bio-CNG at the end of 2020,” he said.

The electricity from the Gas generators is used to power the company’s in-situ Palm Kernel Crushing Plant (KCP) which had previously depended on Diesel generators for power. The containers of Bio-CNG gas are distributed to several sites at the company’s plantations to replace fossil fuels typically in electricity generators, as well as in transportation vehicles.

“We estimate that we could reduce our utilization of approximately two million liters of diesel fuel per year for our power generation and vehicles,” Triono said. “More importantly, DSNG will also reduce its Green House Gas emission by approximately 50,000 tons CO2 per year.” 

He said that such a reduction of more than 50,000 tons CO2, was equivalent to planting approximately over 800,000 trees or removing 11,000 units of passenger car from being used, or removing 17,000 tons of landfill or trash. 

Indirectly, the methane capture will also improve the company’s waste water treatment and hence water quality by reducing the Biological Oxygen Demand. POME is regarded as a highly polluting waste water when not treated properly.

“Not only is the plant consistent with our concept of the Circular Economy of Palm Oil, it is also aligned to our environmental commitments with &Green, as well as our certifications under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) and the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO.) 

The Plant has the capacity to process POME from the company’s own mill with a capacity of 60 tons/hour of Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB). Typically, a 60 tons/hour mill will process approximately 360,000 tons of FFB, and produce approximately 300,000 cubic meters of POME per year.

The company uses the Empty Fruit Bunches (EFBs) as natural nutrients for palm trees in its plantations, to mitigate the use of inorganic fertilizers required in its plantations.

Triono said that DSNG was also planning to build more similar plants.

“While we were commissioning this first Bio-CNG Plant, we were also planning our second phase for another Bio-CNG Plant with a larger capacity,” he said.

This second plant, he said, will leverage on another two mills with processing capacity of 60 tons/hour each. 

DSN Group manages 15 oil palm plantation estates covering a gross area of 112,450 hectares together with 10 mills that produced 610,050 tons of CPO in 2019 and one Kernel Crushing Plant (KCP). 

Its 15 plantations are located in Bulungan in North Kalimantan, Wahau, Bengalon, Karangan and Mahakam Ulu in East Kalimantan, Lamandau in Central Kalimantan and Sekadau and Sintang in West Kalimantan.

Seventy-five percent of the company’s mature plantations and the majority of its mills are in East Kalimantan.

The company, Triono said, was also in the process of establishing two more palm oil mills in anticipation of increasing yields from its young palm trees coming into maturity.

He said that earlier this year, DSNG signed a USD 30.0 million 10-year loan facility from Stichting andgreen fund (“&Green”), a globally-focused impact investment fund financing sustainable commodity production to protect tropical forests. 

The loan facility is also tied to DSNG delivering valuable Environmental Return (“ER”) outcomes in East Kalimantan.

“This is part of our aspiration to one day become a carbon neutral operation,” Triono concluded.

More from Bhimanto Suwastoyo.
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