The next time you stop by a gas station, you might want to think about this: Extensive research and development has revealed the ultra-versatile coconut to also be an alternative fuel source.
That’s good news for many businesses since, these days, diesel prices are no longer far behind gasoline prices.
What is CME?
Coco-biodiesel or Coconut Methyl Ester (CME) is a coconut oil that has undergone trans-esterification—a process that removes the glycerine (a viscous liquid sweetener) of the coconut oil, and transforms the remaining fatty acid component into a cleaner and easier-to-burn hydrocarbon that is similar to diesel.
The government is ecstatic over this breakthrough because this fuel additive could spell benefits for the Philippines, which is, after all, the world’s top coconut exporter.
Given the many uses of the coconut fruit and tree, the Coco-biodiesel could be another source of income for the millions of coconut farmers nationwide.
For ordinary motorists, a liter of the coco-biodiesel fuel additive (sold for 60 to 70 pesos) may be pricier than a liter of diesel (almost 50 pesos), but the added cost was more than made up for by what they could save up on maintenance costs and fuel mileage.
Here’s why: Being an oxygenated fuel with very high lubricity, CME combusts better and neutralizes carbon deposits in the engine’s fuel system. As compared with other biodiesels , CME has the highest cetane number of 70 (palm=62, rapeseed=61, soybean=55, jatropha=51). Cetane number refers to the time gap from spray to combustion in the chamber. The higher the number, the better the ignition and acceleration, which translates to mileage increase.
As a natural hydrocarbon, the CME’s negligible sulfur content could reduce smoke emission levels by 80 percent. Less smoke meant less causes for respiratory ailments. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando said, “[The biodiesel program] should be fast-tracked because we have to consider the health of the people.” The MMDA is responsible for transport and traffic management within Metro Manila.
And here’s the best part: No engine modifications are needed to use CME.
CME got a boost from the enactment into law of the Republic Act No. 9367 or the Biofuels Act of 2006. Under the law, a minimum of 1% biodiesel by volume should be blended into all diesel-powered engines in the country.
Officials at Chemrez Technologies Coco-Biodiesel Plant (a manufacturer of coco-biodiesel in the Philippines) said the nationwide demand for coco-biodiesel, estimated at 40 million liters annually, can be fully met as the country is able to produce 1.2 billion liters of coconut oil every year.
The Philippines could also gain windfall profits because, according to the Biofuels Act, biodiesel content should be raised to 2% by 2009. That could spell substantially less crude oil imports and more dollar savings.
Biofuel is easy to produce because it can be made from any carbon source that can be quickly replenished, such as plants. Biofuel was actually the choice fuel during the formative years of the automotive industry.
Precursor to Petroleum
In 1898 at the World’s Exhibition in Paris, Rudolph Diesel used peanut oil to power up his compression ignition engine. A variant of Henry Ford’s Model T ran on ethyl alcohol, which could be derived from sugarcane.
Despite the advantages of biofuel, manufacturing industrialists shifted to using fossil fuel because they were extremely cheap at that time.
Since then, the whole world’s been on a gas-guzzling frenzy, churning out and consuming millions of barrels of oil everyday.
Hunger for Oil
Among 206 nations, the United States consumes the most oil at 20.73 million barrels per day (bbl/day). China comes next at 6.534 million bbl/day followed by Japan at 3rd place, eating up 5.578 million bbl/day. The Philippines ranks 35th at 342,000 bbl/day. The total worldwide oil consumption is at 82, But now as fossil fuel prices are skyrocketing and its sources are getting depleted, the whole world’s been shifting back to using biofuel not just to address the fuel crunch but more importantly, to save the environment for future generations. 234, 918 bbl/day.
Print ed: 01/08