Village-level facilities launched in Pangasinan

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Farming communities in Bugallon, Pangasinan and those from nearby municipalities, which are producing nipa sap, are now benefiting from the bioethanol production facilities that was launched on August 30 in Brgy. Pantal.

The launching was spearheaded by a team of MMSU experts led by President Shirley Agrupis, and Dr. Fiorello Abenes, a representative of the United States Agency for International Development – Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (USAID-STRIDE).

Other agencies supporting the set of project are the Department of Energy (DOE), Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines (EPAP), Pangasinan State University (PSU), and the local government units (LGUs) of the municipality of Bugallon and the Province of Pangasinan.

The area, which occupies a portion of a property owned by Dante Mesa, 59, a member of the barangay council of Pantal, accommodates the state-of-the-art facilities worth P320,000 that were constructed by engineering experts from MMSU and are now processing raw extracts from nipa palm fruits.

Mesa said the facilities are now helping the local residents who are supplying 95 percent high grade alcohol to those who are producing quality liquors, including local demands of bio-ethanol for gasoline mixture. He said he is confident that the facilities will become sustainable because his 10-hectare nipa plantation has the biggest production of nipa sap in Bugallon at 120 liters per day from just seven clusters of fruits. 

Dr. Agrupis said the facilities are part of MMSU’s multi-disciplinary bio-ethanol project and are now the third facilities launched since 2013. The first set was launched in MMSU for sweet sorghum feedstock, while the other set was launched in Pamplona, Cagayan for nipa.

“This high grade bio-ethanol product from nipa can be mixed with gasoline at 10 percent volume to reduce smoke emission of cars’ mufflers, which is a requirement of the Biofuel Act of 2006,” she said, adding that MMSU is doing its best to help implement the law.

Dr. Agrupis said Pangasinan has become the focus of this development effort, because “it is here where we can find the 8,000-hectare natural nipa plantation in Region 1 that has the potential of producing quality bio-ethanol in the country.”

In the Philippines, nipa is one of the local feedstocks that is considered an important source of alternative fuel, because it produces high amount of extracts that can be processed into hydrous bio-ethanol. Producing as much as 26,000  liters of alcohol in a hectare, nipa is 3 to 4 times more productive than sweet sorghum and sugarcane – today‘s main sources of alcohol, which can only generate about 6,700 liters.

The bio-ethanol facilities in Bugallon, tested through a retrofitted water pump, produced 95 percent bio-ethanol during the launching‘s ceremonial run by Engr. Nathaniel R. Mateo, MMSU project collaborator. He said the facility’s reflux kettle can contain 850 liters of nipa sap per operation, which can produce 70 to 80 liters of bio-ethanol within 4.5 hours.

The multi-feedstock village-level facility comprises six assemblies — the closed fired furnace, reflux kettle, reflux column, second stage condenser, platform or frame assembly, and the cooling tower. 

The facilities purify a fermented nipa sap with 8 to 13 percent alcohol concentration into 95 percent azeotropic ethanol. This technology, which was developed by MMSU, was proven to improve the quality of wine and ethanol. 

Dr. Agrupis said the project is a noble approach which may lead the country to become self sufficient in its supply of bio-ethanol in the near future. 

It is recalled that MMSU has already been producing hydrous bio-ethanol since 2008 with the help of Dr. Abenes, one of the Philippines’ premier DOST Balik-Scientists who was deployed in MMSU. Dr. Abenes is a professor emeritus of animal and veterinary sciences at the California Polytechnic University, Pomona (CalPoly Pomona).

Together with a team of experts from the university, Dr. Abenes first developed a bioethanol mixture or formulation dubbed as hBE-20 or hydrous bioethanol, a 95 percent ETOH from fermentations of sweet sorghum and sugar cane juices.

However, Dr. Abenes said the new biofuel mixture from nipa promises to be more sustainable in the future compared to other feedstocks being used to produce bioethanol and biodiesel. 

Hydrous ethanol product was used to formulate a gasohol mixture, a petrol substitute consisting of 90 percent petrol and 10 percent grain alcohol from crops. This  consists of 20 percent ethanol, 79.41 percent anhydrous E-10 (ethyl alcohol that has a purity of at least 99 percent), and 0.59 percent water. 

The resulting mixture is known as the MMSU hBE-20 formulation. This is more economically- and environmentally-sustainable than anhydrous mixes due to lesser resource utilization. The potential of this technology could save the country some P6 billion a year from ethanol importation. (By Reynaldo E. Andres)

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