Indonesia: Cellulosic Ethanol Clariant Partners with Pertamina for Advanced Biofuels

Editor: Ahlam Rais

Indonesia’s state-owned oil and gas corporation Pertamina has collaborated with Clariant to assess the feasibility of the latter’s sunliquid technology to convert regional feedstocks into advanced biofuels. Such kind of advanced fuel technology solutions are important to meet the growing demand of ethanol in the country.

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Pertamina's project team visiting Clariant's pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Germany at the end of 2019.
Pertamina's project team visiting Clariant's pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Germany at the end of 2019.
(Source: Clariant)

Munich/Germany – Clariant is working with Indonesia's state-owned oil and gas corporation, Pertamina, since 2018 to evaluate and test the feasibility of Clariant's sunliquid technology to process available regional feedstocks in Indonesia into the advanced biofuel, cellulosic ethanol.

Indonesia has a vast potential of untapped biomass, from empty fruit bunches to palm leaves, that could be converted into cellulosic ethanol. Their present-day utilization is negligible and, until now, both feedstocks are frequently burnt, causing air pollution.

In Indonesia, ethanol demand is expected to increase dramatically, spurred primarily by a nationwide E10 ethanol blending mandate. Advanced fuel technology solutions, such as Clariant's sunliquid process, are vital to match the feedstock potential with the increasing ethanol demand in the country.

Since 2018, Pertamina and Clariant have been assessing how to bridge this gap. The collaboration first focused on techno-economic performance analysis, and the testing of empty fruit bunches and palm leaves. The final results of the assessments proved that the sunliquid technology can successfully convert both feedstocks into cellulosic ethanol while achieving a good conversion yield.

Further, a recently conducted conceptual engineering study quantified process balance, facility specification, and process economics in detail. This lays the groundwork for Pertamina's continued consideration of investing in commercial-scale advanced biofuel production plants.

"We are delighted that Pertamina, a renowned energy player in Indonesia, has chosen our sunliquid process for this technology and feedstock assessment, as well as for a process design study for a commercial-scale plant based on regional feedstocks," said Christian Librera, Clariant's Vice President and Head of Business Line Biofuels and Derivatives. "The excellent results demonstrate once again the flexibility and efficiency of our sunliquid technology platform for different lignocellulosic feedstocks," he added.

"As other international oil companies start to navigate energy transition, Pertamina has committed to play its part by fostering clean energy development to reduce global carbon emissions. Our new and strong aspiration is underpinned by essential judgment about the forthcoming future, that clean energy is the key to energy sustainability," said Andianto Hidayat, Pertamina's Vice President of Downstream Research and Technology Innovation.

"As a result, we are strengthening our business portfolio by producing green fuel, such as biodiesel, green aviation fuel, and bioethanol using palm residues that are abundant in Indonesia. We are embracing a robust growth in clean energy by building two green refineries and optimizing domestic resources to ensure Indonesia’s energy independence," he added.

The realization of commercial-scale, advanced biofuels projects based on regionally available feedstocks, could help Indonesia become more independent from foreign fossil fuel imports and secure its national energy supply. In 2015, the Indonesian Government introduced national biofuels targets. The bioethanol mandate in transport for the non-Public Sector Service Obligation (PSO) aims for a 10 % bioethanol content as a gasoline additive and will be realized in the next few years.

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