Norman Harsono, Jakarta – Over the past five years, state-owned electricity company PLN has been intensifying the use of palm oil in its diesel-fired power plants but, going forward, the company is intent on slowing down usage out of technical concerns.
PLN president director Zulkifli Zaini said on Tuesday that using pure crude palm oil-based (CPO) biodiesel or B100 to fuel diesel-fired power plants "creates crust in the machines that may damage the plant's machine components." The plants also produced up to twice the carbon dioxide emissions compared to when using diesel fuel.
"It's best that CPO is used for diesel machines designed to use vegetable fuels," he told a hearing with lawmakers in Jakarta.
The government ordered PLN, which owns Indonesia's largest power producers, to introduce 20 percent palm oil-mixed biodiesel (B20) into its diesel plants in 2015. Then the succeeding B30 was introduced in 2018. PLN's biodiesel consumption reached an all-time high of 2.16 million kiloliters last year.
Mandating the use of blended biodiesel is one of Indonesia's many strategies to reduce oil imports and boost renewable energy usage. The government kicked off the mandatory use of B30 for motor vehicles this year but, even though prevailing regulations do not require pushing beyond B30, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appears steadfast to roll out B50 by 2021 "and onward to B100."
PLN is not alone in experiencing problems with palm oil based biodiesel. The Indonesian Truck Operators Association (Aptrindo) has also complained about, among other things, water damage and blockage in vehicle engines since using B20.
Nevertheless, Zulkifli said PLN would continue researching a means of developing a palm oil based biodiesel that is compatible with existing diesel plants. "PLN will not give up using vegetable oil to meet diesel plant's needs," he said.