Oct 11, 2008

ITS, Sidoarjo to develop bioethanol

INDONESIA Jakarta Post.com, National News, October 11, 2008 - Jakarta

The Sidoarjo regency administration, in cooperation with the 10 November Institute of Technology (ITS), Surabaya, is developing bioethanol as an alternative to replace increasingly scarce kerosene. While the institute is developing the applied technology, designing the processing factory and conducting a series of research and training programs for farmers, the regency administration is encouraging the planting of the so-called gendruwo (very big) cassava plant as a raw material for the alternative energy.

Sidoarjo regent, Win Hendrarso, hailed the development of bioethanol as an alternative energy, since the government-run kerosene-to-gas energy conversion program failed, with liquefied natural gas being unaffordable for most impoverished people.

"I don't want to see people forming long queues for scarce and costly kerosene. We have to find solutions to the energy crisis and bioethanol can help make the energy-saving campaign a success," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The regency administration and ITS was providing training for local farmers and conducting research on how to produce bioethanol from cassava as it has been done in other provinces, he said. Farmers will encouraged to intensively plant sugarcane and soybeans, which could be used to produce alcohol. The regency administration is committed to constructing a major factory for producing bioethanol, he added.

Quoting Goldman Sachs' expert energy team, he said that, despite the slight fall in the world crude oil price, to US$90 per barrel from the previous $140, the world would face an energy crisis in the next two years and, anticipating this, his government had begun promoting alternative energy.

ITS research team chairperson, Sri Nurhatika, said that if the energy project could be implemented successfully, one liter of bioethanol would be equal to nine liters of kerosene.

"A liter of bioethanol costs Rp 10,000 but kerosene costs up to Rp 4,000 per liter," she said, adding that the development of cassava into bioethanol was more efficient and secure than grains or sugarcane, which could be prone to food crises in the future.

She said waste cassava could be recycled as feed for the veterinary industry in the regency, as the processing factory would extract the carbohydrate component from the cassava, discarding the protein.

"The technology is environmentally friendly and no waste will be dumped."

Sri said her team was also conducting an experiment on the use of bioethanol for motorcycles and cars. "If the project is plausible and efficient, we will campaign for the use of bioethanol for cars."

Bambang Eko Alfiatno, a researcher from the Airlangga University, said finding bioethanol from crops such as cassava and banana had to be promoted and developed further by the government to win the world race on alternative energy.

"Indonesia still has vast dormant, unproductive land that could be converted into cassava plantations for the production of alternative energy," he said, adding that the existing farmland should be maintained for agriculture in order to avoid food shortages. -- JP/Indra Harsaputra

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