BUGALLON, PANGASINAN – Farming communities in this town and nearby municipalities producing nipa sap are now benefiting from the bioethanol production facility which the state-run Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City recently established with the help of partner agencies and farm cooperators.
Located in Pantal village, the Php320,000 facility occupies a portion of a property owned by Dante Mesa, 59, a village council member. Engineering experts from MMSU constructed the facility, which is now processing raw extracts from nipa palm fruits.
According to Mesa, the facility helps local residents here who are supplying 95 percent high grade alcohol to those who are producing quality liquors and gasoline mixture. He said he is confident that the facility will become sustainable because of his 10-hectare nipa plantation which has the biggest nipa sap production of 120 liters per day.
On August 30, a team of experts from MMSU led by its president Shirley Agrupis and Dr. Fiorello Abenes, a representative of the United States Agency for International Development – Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (USAID-STRIDE), led the formal launching of the facility.
Other agencies supporting the project are the Department of Energy (DOE), Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines (EPAP), local government unit (LGU) of Bugallon, and the Pangasinan State University (PSU).
Agrupis said the facility is part of MMSU’s multi-disciplinary bioethanol project and now the third facility launched since 2013.
The first was launched in MMSU for sweet sorghum feedstock, while the other was launched in Pamplona, Cagayan for nipa.
“This high grade bioethanol product from nipa can be mixed with gasoline at 10 percent volume to reduce smoke emission of cars’ mufflers, which is a requirement of the Biofuel Act of 2006,” Agrupis explained, citing MMSU is doing its best to help implement the law.
She added Pangasinan has become the focus of this development effort because “it is here where we can find the 8,000-hectare natural nipa plantation in Region 1 that has the potential of producing quality bioethanol in the country.”
In the Philippines, nipa is one of the local feedstocks considered an important source of alternative fuel because it produces high amount of extract that can be processed into hydrous bioethanol.
Producing as much as 26,000 liters of alcohol in a hectare, nipa is 3-4 times more productive than sweet sorghum and sugarcane – today’s main sources of alcohol, which can only generate about 6,700 liters.
The facility in Bugallon, tested through a retrofitted water pump, produced 95 percent bio-ethanol during the launching’s ceremonial run by Engr. Nathaniel R. Mateo, MMSU project collaborator.
He said the facility can contain 850 liters nipa sap per operation, which can produce 70 to 80 liters of bioethanol within 4.5 hours. The multi-feedstock village-level facility comprises six assemblies — the closed fired furnace, reflux kettle, reflux column, second stage condenser, platform or frame assembly, and the cooling tower.
The facility purifies a fermented nipa sap with 8 to 13 percent alcohol concentration into 95 percent azeotropic ethanol. This technology which was developed by MMSU was proven to improve the quality of wine and ethanol.
Agrupis said the project may help the country to become self sufficient in its supply of bioethanol in the near future.
MMSU has already been producing hydrous bioethanol since 2008 with the help of Dr. Abenes, one of the Philippines’ premier Department of Science and Technology “Balik-Scientists” who was deployed in MMSU. Abenes is a professor emeritus of animal and veterinary sciences at the California Polytechnic Universityin Pomona. Together with a team from MMSU, Abenes first developed a bioethanol mixture or formulation dubbed as hBE-20 or hydrous bioethanol (95 percent ETOH) from fermentations of sweet sorghum and sugar cane juices.
Today, the new biofuel mixture from nipa promises to be more sustainable in the future compared to other feedstocks being used to produce bioethanol and biodiesel.Hydrous ethanol product was used to formulate a gasohol mixture (a petrol substitute consisting of 90 percent petrol and 10 percent grain alcohol from crops) consisting of 20 percent ethanol, 79.41 percent anhydrous (ethyl alcohol that has a purity of at least 99 percent) E-10, and 0.59 percent water.
The resulting mixture is the MMSU hBE-20 formulation. This is more economically and environmentally sustainable than anhydrous mixes due to lesser resource utilization.
The potential of this technology could save the country Php6 billion a year in ethanol importation. PNA, REYNALDO ANDRES / ABN
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