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Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands
Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands
Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands
Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands
Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands
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Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands

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Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands …

Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands

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  • 1. Coconut Oil as a biofuel in Pacific Islands Coconut Oil as a Biofuel in Pacific Islands Jan Cloin South Pacific Applied Geoscience CommissionThere are great opportunities to utilise coconut oil as a fuel in the Pacific. Coconut oil canbe blended with diesel fuel, and under certain conditions totally replace it. Coconut oil inPacific islands countries is increasingly used in both transport and electricity generationthrough its lower local cost. Other benefits include the support to local agro-industriesand a decrease in emissions.Biofuels in the Pacific extinct, especially through the high inputsThe use of biofuels is nearly as old as the of labour required, with low return. Bydiesel engine itself, as Mr. Diesel switching to mechanised production ofdesigned his original engine running on local fuel substitutes instead of focusingpeanut oil. During periods in history on highly competitive exports, economicwhen regular diesel supply was niches can be found on the islandshampered seriously such as during World themselves.War II, throughout the world vegetablealternatives from different sources and in There are a number of ways in whichdifferent forms have been used. vegetable oils such as coconut oil can be used in compression engines (SeeThe specific circumstances of small Coconut Oil Fuel Technology). AnotherPacific Islands call for local solutions. promising technology includes straightSince most Pacific island countries gasification of whole coconuts, howeverimport their fuels at very high transport this requires further technologicalcosts, it makes economic sense to find development.local fuel supplies. Even though thePacific islands on a world-scale do not Coconut Oil Fuel Technologycontribute much to the emission of Use of Coconut Oil in Standard Enginesgreenhouse gasses, their case for Figure 1 gives an overview of the optionsmitigation assistance under the Kyoto to use coconut oil in Compression (Diesel)Protocol becomes much stronger if they engines. Coconut oil can be blended withsimultaneously look for environmentally diesel, straight in an adapted engine orbeneficial alternatives to fossil fuels. turned into biodiesel. Because of higher specific density and slightly lower energyThe traditional production of copra (flesh content, specific fuel consumption usingfrom a coconut) and its oil, an industry coconut oil is generally 8% higher.inherited from colonial times, has beensuffering from low world market prices Many studies involving the use ofand high transport costs. In a number of vegetable oils such as coconut oil werecountries, the copra industry is nearly conducted in the early 1980s. Short term Diesel Blend<20% Compression Engine Coconut oil Generator / Car Adapt Engine: Coconut Oil Fuel pump, tank, filters and injectors Standard Waste Biodiesel Vegetable OilFigure 1: Overview of Biofuel Choices for Compression Engine 1
  • 2. Coconut Oil as a biofuel in Pacific Islandsengine testing indicates that vegetableoils can readily be used as a fuel or in arange of blends with diesel. Long-termengine research however shows thatengine durability is questionable whenfuel blends contain more than 20%vegetable oil [1,2,5,11]. Especiallydeposits on the pistons, valves,combustion chambers and injectors cancause severe loss of output power,engine lubricant deterioration or evencatastrophic failure to engines [6].Using pure coconut oil in standardengines is very attractive through its lowcost, however it requires special Figure 3: Coconut Oil Adapted Vehicles intechnical supervision and may shorten Vanuatu (Tony Deamer)engine life.Use of Coconut Oil in Adapted Engines Fuel System AdaptationsFuel Heater It is also possible to adapt the fuel systemAs coconut oil has up to 30 times higher of a compression engine to start and stopviscosity than regular diesel at the same on pure coconut oil. Mostly, these enginestemperature, most engine modifications feature adapted injectors, dedicated fuelinclude a fuel heater. As heat is pumps and extra filters. A good exampleexchanged between the engine coolant of this is the pilot plant in Ouvéa, Newand the fuel, the oil viscosity Caledonia, implemented by SPC andapproximates that of diesel [7]. As CIRAD in the 1990’s [3,12]. Furthercoconut oil solidifies below temperatures feasibility studies have shown favourableof 250C, often an electrical heater is opportunities for both electricityincorporated in the fuel tank. generation and taxis in Vanuatu [9,10].Start / Stop on Diesel In Europe and the United States, the useMost adaptations incorporate a start and of dual fuel systems, mainly in automotivestop on regular diesel. As soon as the applications, is slowly developing. Throughengine is operating at rated a combination of high taxation on fuelstemperature, the fuel supply switches to (Europe), low vegetable oil prices (U.S.)coconut oil and just before shutting an increasing number of consumers havedown, the supply is switched back to acquired an alternative fuel system built indiesel. This system ensures that the fuel their vehicles. Reportedly, the emissionsystem has diesel ready for a cold start reductions achieved through use of these fuels have been mixed [8]. The main advantage of adapted engines is their fuel flexibility and relatively low additional cost. The major disadvantage is the loss of guarantee from the engine manufacturer, even though some engine manufacturers are now supporting the use of coconut oil under certain conditions. A second disadvantage is the requirement for higher loads, as low loads result in heavy deposits on the combustion chamber components, reducing engine life [12]. Figure 2: Fiji Rural Electricity Generation adaptations: special pump and filter.and avoids coconut oil residues in thefuel system. 2
  • 3. Coconut Oil as a biofuel in Pacific IslandsThe use of Biodiesel CNO World Export Market and price per litreBiodiesel is a standardised fuel thatconsists of vegetable oil Methyl Ester. 2.5 0.8It is a product of vegetable oil thatreacts with an alcohol (methanol) and 0.7a catalyst (sodium hydroxide). This 2process generates two products: 0.6glycerine, which can be used in soapproduction, and biodiesel. There are Million tonnes 0.5 1.5 US$/litretwo fully developed standards of 0.4biodiesel, ASTM-D 6751 in the U.S.and EN14214 in the E.U. Following 1 0.3these standards upholds theguarantee of the engine 0.2manufacturer [4]. 0.5 0.1Positive impacts on engines includeincreased lubricity and a reduction of 0 0visible particles in the exhaust. 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003Secondly, other (waste) vegetable oil Year Market Volumecan be included in the feedstock of US$ per litrebiodiesel production. Figure 4: Copra Oil World Export Market and PriceThe major disadvantage of biodiesel is (Source: Philippines Coconut Authority)its high costs through the use of achemical facility and the requirement of world price. The price composition forimported methanol. Current research by traditional production of copra oil in Fiji isthe University of the South Pacific will given in table 1. The value of the coconutshave to point out whether the production and the labour to create copra (includesof standard biodiesel can be competitive cutting the coconut flesh out of the shellusing locally produced ethanol from and drying it) are almost equal. On top ofsugarcane. that the mill obtains 11 US cents per litre in return for producing and filtering theCoconut Oil Economics oil. Finally 11 US cents are required to getThe world production of coconuts in the oil to the world market, in thiscopra equivalent has been floating example, the port of Rotterdam.around 10 million tonnes per year. Ofthis market, between 1 and 2 million One of the reasons why the copra oiltonnes has been traded on the world industry in many Pacific island countries ismarket. Figure 4 shows the volume of suffering is because they have a relativelythe global copra oil market and the small size and little opportunities forassociated price per litre over the last 5 economies of scale. Because of the lowyears. return for the harsh work involved with the cutting and drying of copra, manyThe price fluctuation of coconut oil has rural farmers are diverting to other cashbeen significant, between 0.3 and 0.7 crops, leaving coconuts unharvested inUS$/litre. The export market consists plantations. Regional potential productionmainly of industrial processes that can estimates amount up to a total of 100use other vegetable oils if the world price million litres of coconut oil.for coconut oil is high. This can be seenfor example 1999 when there was a There are many opportunities toworldwide shortage of coconut oil. The mechanise the process of copraworld market price is therefore also very production, but this will only materialisemuch linked to the prices and yields of when investors perceive the risks of theother oils such as palm, corn and canola. investments required to be minimal.Since the Pacific island countries only Switching to higher value product-marketproduce a small percentage of the world combination such as Coconut Oil Fuelexport (Papua New Guinea: 2.2%, might assist in this transition. The electricSolomon Islands: 1% Samoa 0.4%, Fiji utility of Western Samoa (EPC) is0.3%), any increase or decrease in currently carrying out a feasibility study ofproduction in the Pacific will not alter the 3
  • 4. Coconut Oil as a biofuel in Pacific Islands a mechanised Coconut Oil Fuel production plant on the island of Savai’i. Table 1: Fiji Coconut Oil Price Composition Price in Oil Share of Equivalent Local Oil [US$/l] Price [%] Coconuts on field 0.22 39 Return for labour to Cut/Dry Copra 0.25 42 Dry Copra at Mill 0.47 81 Return for Milling / Filtering 0.11 19 Coconut Oil Price at Mill (Fiji) 0.48 100 Storage, Transport, Financing 0.11 19 World Coconut Oil Price (Rotterdam) 0.59 123 Figure 5: Traditional Copra Production in Samoa What becomes apparent when looking at the figures in Table 1 is that the local depicts the opportunity cost of a litre of price of coconut oil is significantly lower coconut oil of being exported. The price than the world price, through the cost of difference is even larger for remote islands storage, transport and financing. Since and villages inside the Pacific islands one litre of diesel must be replaced by countries, where additional local transport 1.08 litre of coconut oil (see box “Coconut costs have to be taken into account. Oil Fuel Technology”), the opportunity cost for local coconut oil versus diesel is Given the volatility of both the prices for therefore US$ 0.52 per litre. coconut oil and diesel, flexible fuel systems running on both fuels, have Figure 6 shows the retail prices and preference. Even running generators on landed cost of diesel fuel in the region, the low blends (10-20%) of coconut oil difference being taxes, excise and without investing in engine adaptation can distribution costs. The line in the graph have great financial benefits. Pacific Regional Diesel Prices Niue Tuvalu Vanuatu Tonga Kiribati New Caledonia Marshall Islands French PolynesiaPapua New Guinea Solomon Islands Fiji Pacific Island Opportunity Cost of Coconut Oil: US$0.52/litre Hawaii Retail Samoa Excluding Duty & Taxes 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 US$cents/litre Figure 6: Pacific Regional Diesel Prices (Source: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Fuel Price Monitor Nov-Dec 2004) 4
  • 5. Coconut Oil as a biofuel in Pacific Islands coconut oil with diesel to decreaseThe further rationalisation and costs per km. For coconut oil fuel tomechanisation of the coconut oil supply be a sustainable alternative to dieselchain will increase the security of supply, fuel in the Pacific, restructuring of thehowever this requires significant coconut industry and replanting ofinvestment in the coconut oil sector. coconut plantations is required.After restructuring and replanting of Widespread utilisation of alternativecoconut plantations, most Pacific islands fuels will require active involvementhave the potential to provide one third to of engine manufacturers and localhalf of their current diesel imports. mechanics.Environmental Benefits AcknowledgementThe widespread use of Coconut Oil to The author is grateful for the essentialreplace diesel has a range of potential contributions of: Patrice Courty, Tony Deamerenvironmental benefits. First, there is and Dr. Gilles Vaitilingom.the decrease of emissions of poisonousgases and particulate matter as References [1] Allen, M. (2002) “Straighter than straight vegetable oilscompared to diesel, through the higher as diesel fuels”, Prince of Songkla University, Thailandoxygen content of coconut oil. These [2] Calais, P. and Clark, A.R. (2004) “Waste Vegetable Oil asbenefits however do not materialise so a diesel Replacement Fuel”, Murdoch University and Westernwell using straight vegetable oil in Australian Renewable Fuels Association, Western Australia.standard engines [8]. Secondly, the use [3] Courty, P. (1998) “Potential for copra oil as a biofuel: Aof coconut oil can be considered CO2 development tool for Pacific Community countries andneutral. The CO2 stored in the coconuts, territories” SPC, New Caledoniahusks and shells are used in the process [4] EMA Engine Manufacturers Association (2003) “Technicalof oil production (husk and shells for statement on the use of biodiesel fuel in compression ignition engines” EMA, Chicago, U.S.A.drying the copra) and burning of the oil.This CO2 is again sequestrated during [5] Jones, J. and Peterson, C.L. (2002) “Using unmodified Vegetable Oil as a Diesel Fuel Extender” University of Idaho,the growing of new trees and nuts. U.S.A.Socio-Economic Benefits [6] Knothe, G. et al (1997) “Biodiesel: The use of straight vegetable oil and their derivatives as alternative dieselCreating a local industry that substitutes fuels”, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S.A.fuel imports, benefits fragile Pacific [7] Kopial, T. et al (2004) “Effects of reducing coconut oilisland countries substantially through viscosity on engine performance”, PNG University ofimprovements in balance of payments Technology, Lae, Papua New Guinea[13] and job creation. Simultaneously, [8] Lance, D. et al (2003) “DfT Biofuels Evaluation – Finalcoconut farmers are given access to a Report of Test Programme to Evaluate Emissionsnew, potentially booming market once Performance of Vegetable Oil Fuel on Two Light Duty Diesel Vehicles”, Ricardo Consulting Engineers, U.K.the difference with the benchmark of thediesel price further increases. [9] Leplus, A. (2003) “Biofuel Energy from Coconut in the Pacific Islands” MSc. Thesis, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.Conclusion [10] Ribier, V. et al (2004) “Etude de faisabilité d’un projetEven though there is quite some de valorisation de l’huile de coprah à l’échelle villageoise – leevidence of the environmental cas de la coopérative ‘Lory’, Nord Santo” CIRAD, Francebenefits using vegetable oils as a [11] Solly, R.K. (1983) “Coconut oil and Coconut Oil Ethanolfuel, it is the local cost of fuel that is Derivatives as fuel for Diesel Engines” University of thethe real driver behind these South Pacific, Fiji Islandsdevelopments in the Pacific island [12] Vaitilingom, G. et al. (1995) “Crude Copra Oil, a biofueleconomies. Electric Utilities for diesel engines” CIRAD / SPC, New Caledoniagenerally suffer from great [13] Zieroth, G. et al (1985) “Biofuels for developingdependence on imported diesel for countries: Promising strategy or dead end?”, GTZ, Germanypower generation and are seekingnew ways to hedge these risks. Links for further informationMotorists have successfully blended http://www.journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html http://www.sopac.org/tiki/tiki-index.php?page=Energy+Projects+COPRA Biography Jan Cloin Joined SOPAC – Community Lifelines Programme – in December 2003 as a U.N. Associate Expert. He started his career with PV Solar Home Systems research in Southern Africa for the Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN). After that, he worked briefly for the UNDP Energy & Atmosphere Programme in New York. Before joining SOPAC, he was active in the green electricity sector in The Netherlands. Currently, he is working on the use of Biofuels, Wind Energy Education and Renewable Energy Training. 5

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