Factory on Plantation a la Indmira’s Solution for Oil Palm Waste Management

December 31, 2015 - Uncategorized

                                                                www.otonomidaerah.org, 2012

Palm Kernel Shells

Since 2006, Indonesia has become the largest producer of oil palm, making up 45% of the world’s total production. The area of oil palm plantations in the country has also been increasing lately. Based on the statistics from the General Directorate of Plantations, oil palm was grown in 10.9 million ha of land and produced 29.3 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) in 2014.

This high production is the main driver of CPO export. However, this economic benefit masks  the large amount of byproduct in the form of Palm Kernel Shells (PKS – tandan kosong kelapa sawit = TKKS).

Based on the available data on the website of BUMN PT Perkebunan Nusantara V, palm oil is processed in 608 factories with tthe total production capacity of 34,280 tonnes of fresh palm fruit (FPF)/hour. For every tonne of FPF processed, there is 22-23% of PKS produced. If a factory produces 13.712 tonnes PKS/day and operates for 260 working days/year, there is up to 3.5 million tonnes of PKS produced every year. This is a significant amount of waste that may become a pollutant if not managed well.

So far, PKS has not been utilized optimally. Its main usage is to produce compost, but composting is a time consuming process. Without a starting substrate, it takes six months to a year to compost PKS because of its high cellulose content (>60%). While using a substrate, it takes one to two months. This process also takes up a lot of space and often results in mounds of unprocessed PKS. When PKS accumulates, it can start fermentation that results in methane production. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that are known to cause Ozone layer degradation in the atmosphere.

Indmira, as an environmental research based company, is doing studies on PKS processing to make it useful in a relatively shorter time and more eco-friendly. We are calling this concept as the “Factory inside Plantation”, which aims at starting a PKS processing factory inside oil plam plantation. The factory will benefit the plantation by reducing the environmental degradation and cost of PKS transport to a processing plant in different location and thus a carbon footprint reduction.

Indmira has been developing PKS processing using pyrolitic methods since 2013. Pyrolisis is a chemical decomposition process through heating without or using a small amount of oxygen or other reagents, in which the raw materials undergo chemical breakdown and turn into gas. Pyrolisis of PKS is rather environmentally friendly and results in bio charcoal (bio-char) rich in potassium (up to 30 K2O) and liquefied gas.

Potassium is one of the macro nutrients needed by plants in photosynthetic process, increasing the efficiency of water usage, strengthening branches, producing more viable seeds, increasing the quality of fruits, and increasing disease resistance. The use of potassium from PKS processing will reduce the cost of potassium fertilizer needs, which have been imported so far.

Bio-char can also function in carbon retention in the soil. In a monoculture system like oil palm plantation, carbon loss rate is especially high. Besides the bio-char, the liquefied gas produced in the pyrolitic process can be used as natural preservatives and pesticides.

The pyrolitic plant developed by Indmira will be equipped with albakos furnace, tar reservoir, condenser, vacuum, and oxygen control. The initial heating is started with charcoal briquets, which is not needed once the system is already in operation. The current prototype can process 20 kg PKS/day, and result in 20-25% of bio-char and four liters of liquefied gas. These are satisfactory endproducts using a process that does not use much fuel.

We hope to roll out our first model in 2016 with the capacity of 200 tonnes PKS/day and are looking for oil palm companies who will partner with us. When we can make this happen, “Factory inside Plantation” a la Indmira can become one of the solutions in managing the waste from Indonesia’s “green gold”, oil palm. Hopefully! (Le)

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