Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches Potential as Renewable Energy

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Illustration by Rumah Mesin

Palm oil is one of the important export commodities for Indonesia. Indonesia is ranked number one as a palm oil producer in the world. In 2016, Indonesia had produced 34,520,000 tons of palm oil and 99.31% higher compared to Malaysia which was ranked second. High production is generally followed by the residue it produces. The residue is part of the mass balance of palm oil sources and fresh fruit bunches. One of the residues from oil palm is “Empty Fruit Bunches” which share 21% of the total mass of fruit oil palm. Empty fruit bunches generally only become waste or are subsequently used as organic fertilizer on oil palm plantations.

The composition of empty oil palm fruit bunches has quite a high mineral content such as Ca, Fe, Na, K, and P. High ash content in empty fruit bunches can cause secondary reactions in thermochemical processes. This condition makes empty fruit bunches less desirable in its use as fuel because its use requires high technology as fuel of the boiler. This study is aimed to observe its potential under the caloric properties of measured data and the boiler biomass used. 30,205,000 tons of empty palm fruit bunches can produce around 1,636 kcal/kg at 64.9% humidity and are evaluated for 365 days of production to calculate heat capacity. The result showed empty palm fruit bunches potential as boiler fuel could produce 157.34 GW in 2016.

Based on the statistics, the biomass potential of empty palm fruit bunches from 2013 to 2015 were 126.63 GW, 133.45 GW, and 141.62 GW respectively. These results indicate the great potential possessed as boiler fuel. Studies of heavy metals have also been carried out because this is related to the effect of combustion on the kettle.

Higher palm oil production has other benefits for power generation from empty palm fruit bunches. This potential can be used for utilization of waste products from palm oil mills. The properties of empty palm fruit bunches have the potential to produce heat that is quite good in terms of the presence of fibers or shells as boiler fuel. Apart from the caloric value shown by empty fruit bunches, it is almost the same as fiber for several waste conditions. But the impact that occurs during combustion for boilers is quite potential. Empty fruit bunches can be used as boiler fuel because of the considerable availability in Indonesia with a higher calorie-burning value. Another problem we need to study is the alkali metal composition which causes bad combustion effect such as dust sediment produced by combustion of empty fruit bunches.

Author: Intan Ayu Pratiwi

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This popular scientific article is extracted from articles published in Q4 International Journal:

Intan Ayu Pratiwi*, Helmi Dadang Ardiansyah, A study of EFB (Empty Fruit Bunch) for fuel of Indonesian biomass boiler, Eco. Env. & Cons. 25 (April Suppl. Issue): 2019; pp. (S86-S89). Copyright@ EM International. ISSN 0917–765X.


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