Jatropha curcas, Barbados nut or Physic nut is just a plain old castor oil which was used long before the kerosene or any other form of petroleum product was known to Indonesians. However it is being touted as an alternative source of fuel as it is renewable and relatively cheap for tropical countries like Indonesia.

The head of the Bandung Institute of Technology’s Biotechnology Research Center said everybody knows we will run out of fossil fuels in the next 50 or 100 years which is a short period of life for the earth. Therefore we should start using alternative fuels now. He said among other alternative energy available in the country such as coal and nuclear power, jatropha was the best option as it offered not only renewable sources but also ensured the rehabilitation of over 59 million hectares of critical land across the country.

Jatropha could be planted in critical or abandoned land and it needs only sustainable sunlight and water to keep it alive. Such a condition surely makes it the best environmentally friendly fuel alternative. Experts believe increasing the consumption of biofuel would reduce greenhouse gas emissions mainly produced by fossil fuels which have worsened global warming increasing temperatures and raising sea levels.

Jatropha plantation projects would also create jobs for some 11 million unemployed people in the country and raise the livelihoods of the more than 60 million poor people living on less than US$2 per day and unlike oil, gas or coal businesses, jatropha plantations could be owned by anyone and not only by the government or companies

To help promote the use of castor oil the ITB in collaboration with National Geographic Indonesia and a local authorized Mitsubishi dealer PT Krama Yudha Tiga Berlian Motors plans to hold the 2006 Jatropha expedition.

The expedition will test-drive a Mitsubishi Strada car fueled with 100 percent castor oil. The sport utility vehicle will travel from Atambua in East Nusa Tenggara to Jakarta from July 12 to July 20. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to greet the car upon its arrival in the capital.Jatropha

Unfortunately, a mass production of this green fuel will have exactly the same impacts as that of other alternative fuel: Palm oil which has been recently criticised by environmental activists like Green Peace and Friend of Earth for deforestation of tropical rain forests. Therefore, Indonesia which is considered as one of the lungs of the world, should never think of using this fuel by sacrificing the rainforests.

Well, Indonesia actually still has a lot of mineral fuel underneath its thousands of islands, but I think it is better to leave the secret lockup or else other nations would like to come and rob it by force if necessary, just like the Iraq case.

Hold on, a team of researchers at Yogyakarta’s Muhammadiyah University (UMY) has just patented their invention Banyugeni, which literally means “firewater”. Rector Khoiruddin Bashori said by mass producing Banyugeni, Indonesia would be able to allocate its annual fuel subsidy of Rp 50 trillion (US$5.50 billion) to pay off foreign debts.

Khoiruddin said the invention was the result of about a year of research, involving five researchers at the university’s Center for Regional Energy Development Studies: Drs Purwanto, Ir Bledug Kusuma Prasadja MT, Ir Tony K Haryadi MT, Ir Lilik Utari MS, dan Dra Nike Triwahyuningsih MP., tasked with researching and developing alternatives to fossil fuels. Banyugeni, according to Khoiruddin, currently has four different product variants — hydro-kerosene, hydro-diesel, hydro-premium and hydro-avtur. He said these were equivalent to their fossil-fuel counterparts kerosene, diesel, gasoline and airplane fuel. “In the future, we will also develop other product variants that are superior to existing variants,” Khoiruddin said. The newly invented fuel had been tested by PT CoreLab Indonesia, an independent international laboratory, and had been subsequently declared to meet the standards of the Directorate General of Oil and Gas at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry. The test result, Khoiruddin said, was convincing. Hydro-premium, for example, proved to be non-corrosive, non-residual and to show low-emission rates. Hydro-avtur is similarly non-corrosive, low in emission rates and has a low freezing temperature of minus 45 degrees Celcius. “The test on aero-modeling crafts shows that hydro-fuel can be categorized as jet fuel,” said Purwanto, adding that this particular variant ran cool with an initial boiling point of 164 degrees Celcius. Similar results were shown from tests on hydro-diesel and hydro-kerosene variants, Khoiruddin continued. An experiment at the Surakarta aviation education and training institute Tutuko using an ultra-light Jora aircraft with a Rotax 582 engine on Feb. 11, 2008, according to Khoiruddin, confirmed Banyugeni’s variant of hydro-avtur could satisfactorily start the craft’s engine and achieve maximum take-off power.

Hydro-fuel was produced using so-called “mechano-thermal-electro-chemical” technology involving four processes: mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical, all using water as the raw material.“Water is basically flame. It comprises explosive hydrogen and flammable oxygen,” said Purwanto. The process of turning the water into hydro-fuel, he said, was basically keeping the two atoms in the water in such a position where the water could revert to its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen.“The results are fuel products that are not polluting and are environmentally friendly,” said Purwanto, adding that the products’ elements and characteristics had made it possible for them to be directly applied on machines without any modification to the machines’ components.Hydro-kerosene, for example, can be directly used in kerosene stoves or lamps. Hydro-diesel, similarly, can be directly used to start a diesel engine while the hydro-premium can be used to run motorcycles or cars. The hydro-avtur, according to Purwanto, has also been tested on jet-fuel machines such as the ones propelling aero-modeling aircraft.

Researcher Nike Triwahyuningsih said for further processing of hydro-fuel, the water needed to be purified. Once processed, Nike said, a liter of pure water could produce about the same volume either of hydro-premium, hydro-kerosene or hydro-diesel, according to the desired results.“We used seawater for the research, but basically any water including liquid waste can be processed into hydro-fuel,” said Nike. Nike said the decision to use seawater was mainly made with a consideration that ground water was for human consumption. Thus, mass production of hydro-fuels would not disturb clean water supplies for humans, she said.“That way we create a good synergy between the people and the government for the prosperity of all, and not just for particular groups or parties,”

Presiden SBY memperhatikan BBM blue energy di kediaman pribadi Puri Cikeas Indah, Bogor, Minggu (25/11) sore

At about the same time, claiming to have the idea from the Qur’an, Joko Suprapto, a villager of Ngadiboyo, Rejoso, Nganjuk, East Java, invented Blue Energy – which was exhibited at the United Nation Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2007 in Nusa Dua, Bali. Just like Banyugeni, Blue Energy uses seawater as its raw material and 100% compatible with conventional petrol engine. Moreover a diesel variant of Blue Energy significantly reduce the vibration of tested diesel engine. Blue Energy is created by splitting the water molecules into H+ and O2-. Some catalysts and processing are needed to turn seawater into a specific carbon chained fuel. To prove the reliability of Blue Energy and to show the alternative fuel to the UNFCCC attendants, two double cabin Ford Ranger trucks, one Mazda 6 saloon car, one bus, and one Blue Energy tanker truck, were driven from Cikeas, Bogor, West Java to Nusa Dua, Bali.

There are some reservations from experts with regards to Banyugeni or Blue Energy mass production and costs. In my opinion, the energy required for the production can be sourced directly from the sea, utilising the OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) technique. Of course, the government, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversionvia PT PLN must build its rather expensive infra structure while charging the hydro fuel producing company e.g. PERTAMINA for the energy used. Technology wise, OTEC was invented in 1880s by a French physicist, Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval. As early as 1930, Cuba built OTEC plant with a low-pressure turbine generating 22kW of electricity. The work was led by Georges Claude who was d’Arsonval’s student. In 1974, The United States became involved in OTEC research, when the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority was established at Keahole Point on the Kona coast of Hawaii. The laboratory has become one of the world’s leading test facilities for OTEC technology. Japan also continues to fund research and development in OTEC technology. India piloted a 1 MW floating OTEC plant near Tamil Nadu. Its government continues to sponsor various research in developing floating OTEC facilities.

Investing in OTEC and hydro fuel, the government will definitely reap the benefits of (1) cheaper fuel price which can pull down inflation (2) increase export of oil products as we no longer need them domestically (3) diversifications of PLN (now selling OTEC electricity) and PERTAMINA (now selling hydro fuel) will significantly reduce their business risks and guarantee profitability. With a very prospective project proposal like this one, ADB or even IBRD will definitely offer funding, if not grants. Come on Mas Langgeng, use PIP to start this energy revolution!