Pertamina speeds up green fuel test for production

5 January 2019

State energy holding company Pertamina plans to further test the commercial production of green fuels to reduce ballooning oil imports, which account for more than half of national demand.
Green fuel is what Pertamina refers to as fuels that are processed in a refinery with treated crude palm oil, called refined bleached deodorized palm oil (RBDPO), through a treatment called coprocessing. There are three types of green fuel, namely gasoline, diesel and aviation turbine (avtur).
The processing method is different from 20 percent biodiesel blend, where the CPO material, fatty acid methyl ester, is blended only after the crude oil becomes fuel.
The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) said through coprocessing, the biofuel may have a higher blend than 20 percent.
“Biodiesel still contains oxygen, but with coprocessing the fuel’s specification becomes similar to fossil fuels and will even have a higher octane number,” ITB expert on chemical reaction and catalyst technology Subagjo said at a recent press briefing with Pertamina about green fuel.
There are four Pertamina refineries that have been earmarked for the green project, namely in Plaju in South Sumatra, Cilacap in Central Java, Dumai in Riau and Balongan in West Java.
The initial plant test in Plaju kicked off in early December for a week, while a second test will be rolled out this September for a month. Meanwhile, plant tests in Dumai, Cilacap and Balongan will be carried out in February, September and next year, respectively.
Pertamina refinery director Budi Santoso Syarif said on the same occasion that if the plant tests are successful, the company could then produce green gasoline with a research octane number of 92 at 487,800 kiloliters per month.
“The effort is in accordance with the government’s mission to [secure] foreign exchange. We could also reduce crude [imports] by 23,000 barrels per day, or the equivalent to [saving] US$500 million each year,” he said.
Data from Pertamina shows that the production of green liquefied petroleum gas, green diesel and green avtur could reach 104,000 tons per month, 11,500 barrel stream per day (bsd) and 11,700 bsd, respectively.
The plant tests, however, are facing obstacles in terms of RBDPO supply, which may delay commercial production of green fuel. Budi said RBDPO is a material that is generally utilized by margarine and cooking oil producers.
“RBDPO is mainly produced by private [companies], so basically we still depend on other people. Hence, we can’t be sure on the exact timeline for commercial production [of green fuel],” he said.
Budi explained that one of the examples of supply problems was during the plant test in Plaju, which was initially planned to kick off in October, but was delayed until December because of a lack of supply.
He further said the green projects have the potential to be included in the firm’s two refinery development plans, namely the Refinery Development Master Plan and the Grass Root Refinery.
“Five out of six refinery development projects are still in the negotiation phase. Hence it could be included in those projects,” he added.
In November, Statistics Indonesia recorded the country’s trade deficit at $2.05 billion. The increase was triggered by a $1.46 billion monthly deficit in oil and gas trade despite declining oil prices, both in international indexes and the Indonesia Crude Price, which set the oil price at $62.98 per barrel in November from $77.56 per barrel the month before.

Source: Jakarta Post, 5 January 2019