Technologist Proposes Biodiesel Vs. Pollution in Philippines

One percent blend of Coconut methyl ester (CME) with low sulfur diesel produced a 50 percent reduction smoke emissions

Published: 10-Feb-2004

WITH three increases in petroleum prices in the last five weeks and the worsening urban pollution, it should be time to shift to alternative and environmentally safer fuel such as the lowly coconut oil.

Energy experts are egging jeepney and vehicle owners to lace their diesel fuel with coconut methyl ester derived (CME) to help curb vehicle exhaust pollution.

The experts made their pitch for CME and other forms of bio-diesel, together with natural and liquefied petroleum gas, during recent discussions with sectoral groups here on alternative fuels for transport.

The forum followed reports last year that the rate of pollution from vehicle emissions here is worse than other highly-urbanized cities in the country.

The report on the city's car exhaust pollution status was denied by the Environment Management Bureau (EMB), which ruled that "the ambient air quality is within the 'good to fair' condition."

But even with the EMB clarification, Mayor Bernardo Vergara last year pushed for a 10 percent reduction in exhaust emission pollution within the next two years. In his yearend report, he cited statistics culled from the EMB showing an eight percent reduction in the pollution rate compared to 2002.

In a presentation during the discussions, Prof. Rey Hizon of the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) noted that bio-diesel, which is derived from plant or vegetable oils, is renewable and can be used in modified diesel engines.

"It is safe, biodegradable and reduces serious air pollutants such as soot, particulates, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and air toxics," he stressed.

Robert Albes of the Philippine Coconut Industry (PCA) said tests on 15 PCA vehicles with their diesel fuel blended with only one percent CME showed a reduction of around 50 percent in their smoke emissions.

Another test made at the Nihon University in Japan showed that blends of one, five, 10 and 20 percent of CME to low sulfur diesel resulted in a 70 percent reduction of particulate matter from exhaust emission.

Although CME is more costly than petroleum fuel, mixing it increases mileage to one to two kilometers per liter that translates into savings of 91 centavos to P2.85 for every liter of diesel, according to Hizon.

Some jeepney drivers who have tested the mix admitted it resulted in better road performance. Despite assurances from experts, however, the drivers expressed apprehension over the negative effects it might have on their engines.

"Using bio-diesel actually extends the life of your engine because of superior lubricating and cleaning properties," Hizon said. "Since it is oxygenated (22 percent by weight), (the) result is an almost perfect combustion and means lesser emission compared to pure diesel fuel."

He added that the use of CME will also help stabilize the domestic price of copra and encourage coconut farmers to increase their production, thereby uplifting their economic status.

A fact sheet distributed by the speakers showed that bio-diesel is used in blends of five to 20 percent in the United States while a five percent blend is provided for by law in France.

Jo Mangila of the Energy Environment Training Program of the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) said the use of alternative fuel has been steadily gaining ground in the US since the Clean Cities Program was launched a decade ago.

Currently, Mangila said there are 81 active coalitions in the US that are promoting the use of alternative fuel in the transportation sector, with 151,000 vehicles using bio-diesel made available by over 6,000 alternative fueling stations.

"This resulted in 181 gallons of petrol displaced and 32,000 metric tons of emissions reduced per year," Mangila pointed out.

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