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Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani




Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani





Philippine firm touting coconut as best biodiesel
09/25/2002 (Financial Times) - Diesel has a bum rap in this part of theworld. Unlike in Europe where motorists have long discovered the benefitsof diesel-powered vehicles, Filipinos usually equate the word with thechoking fumes of jeepneys, trucks and Asian utility vehicles clogging theroads.One local company is aiming to change all that and more: Senbel FineChemical Co. Inc., an oleochemical firm located in Lucena City, ispreaching the benefits of its biodiesel product, not only as analternative fuel but also as a means of reviving the country's coconutindustry and boosting energy security.Senbel president Jose Ermelo S. Santos, in a recent talk, said hiscompany's efforts are in line with efforts of the government's NationalClean Diesel Task Force, which aims to promote an alternative market forcoconut oil derivatives and establish acceptance of clean diesel fuel.He explained that biodiesel, or vegetable derived esters, is actually thesame ingredient as that used in making soap. It, however, can be used innormal diesel engines, as a blend or a total substitute, without the needfor costly engine modification.Among others, it is a renewable form of energy, reduces harmful emissions,engine-friendly, safe to store due to a higher flashpoint, biodegra-dableand non-toxic.Coconut oil VDE, in particular, has advantages over biodiesel sourced fromrapeseed, soybean or sunflower oil, which is already used in Europe andother parts of the world. In particular, coconut-based biodiesel has ahigher cetane (octane for gasoline) rating of 70, better than other VDEsand even that of petroleum diesel which has a high of 55.Stricter curbs on the sulfur content of petroleum diesel also means lowerlubricity, putting biodiesel's lubricating properties to the fore forvehicle owners concerned with engine wear and tear.This puts the Philippines in an ideal position to benefit from thisalternative fuel, Mr. Santos claimed.While the government is exploring other alternative fuel options such ascompressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroluem gas (LPG), one majordrawback is the costs required to build CNG/LPG refilling stations andconverting vehicles, he said.Cost, however, is also biodiesel's caveat. At three to five times moreexpensive than petroleum diesel, this would mean astronomical per literprices. Costs could be reduced if the government provides some incentives,but Mr. Santos is banking on diesel blends instead of pure biodiesel topromote Senbel's product.In terms of lubricity, for example, very little additional benefit isgained if one moves to 100% biodiesel from a 20% blend, he said.Senbel is currently marketing two products: Estrol 2T to meet the oilrequirements of two-stroke gas engines such as motorcycles, and EstrolBiodiesel which a diesel vehicle owner can purchase to blend with everytank.Mr. Santos warns that initial use may mean frequent oil filter changes fora time as biodiesel's solvent properties will dissolve petrodieseldeposits clogging fuel lines, tanks and delivery systems.The company is currently exploring supply options with government agenciessuch as the Metro Manila Development Authority and has in fact convincedthe Lucena City government to endorse its products.