Jakarta: Indonesia’s state oil company PT Pertamina produced its first successful batch of biodiesel made up of 100% palm oil (D100) in its Dumai refinery last week and is set to produce 1,000 barrels per day (bpd), the company said on Wednesday.

Indonesia, which has one of the world’s most ambitious biodiesel programmes, raised the bio-content in its biodiesel mandate to 30% (B30) late last year from 20% (B20) before, and is planning to upgrade the bio-content gradually to 100%.

“This trial shows that our refinery and catalysts are ready. Next, we have to think how to make the economic side work too,” Pertamina CEO Nicke Widyawati said in a statement.

In Indonesia – the world’s largest palm oil producer – the bio portion of biodiesel is made with fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) from palm oil, but efforts to increase FAME concentrations in biodiesel have faced resistance from users.

While biodiesel can cut fuel costs and reduce emissions, higher blends of FAME require special handling and equipment as the fuel has a solvent effect that can corrode engine seals and gasket materials, and it can solidify at cold temperatures.

Instead of using crude palm oil to create FAME and mixing it with regular diesel, the D100 “Green Diesel”, processes refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil straight into its refinery using catalytic cracking and hydrogen gas, the statement said.

The biodiesel programme is a key part of the government’s strategy to soak up excess supplies of palm oil and curb expensive fuel imports, one of the main contributors to the country’s current account deficit problem.

In May, Indonesia said it is likely to delay plans to raise bio-content in palm oil-based biodiesel to 40%, amid speculation that low crude prices could force a government re-think. – Reuters

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