Sub-regional Workshop on
Bio-Fuels in Vanuatu
Hosted by SOPAC, Govt of Vanuatu and PIEPSAP
August 2005, Port Vila, Vanuatu
Challenges and Opportunities to a Viable Biofuel Sector
1st - 5th August, 2005
WORKSHOP REPORT by S. Wakefield (MEC) RMI
The Sub regional workshop was jointly hosted by the Vanuatu Government department of Energy, PIEPSAP and SOPAC. It was held at the Wild Pig Hotel in Port Vila, Vanuatu during the week of August 1st through August 5th. Participants were invited from eleven countries and organizations to attend the workshop with the aim of bringing together interested groups of people to share existing national experiences and to see how each nation desires to develop sustainable, renewable fuel sources.
The wide variety of participants included private sector copra producers and millers to Government millers, Government Energy department staff, Power Generation companies, Bio-Fuel producers, Dual Fuel Engine suppliers, Chemists, Physicists, Energy advisors and funding agencies.
The workshop commenced with representatives of each nation providing an overview of the current coconut oil facilities, production and ventures occurring in their home country and the future potential and desires of renewable energy usage.
It quickly became apparent that all nations had the same desire to reduce their nation’s dependency and in many cases an unregulated exposure to the supply of fossil fuels and their spiraling costs.
A background in the development of bio-fuels in their many forms and ratios including biomass systems and collectors through to compression engine styles and their operation provided a basic insight into how productively the various fuels produce energy.
Several sessions focused on the conversion of existing vehicle and stationary engines to run efficiently on alternate fuels and the availability of multi-fuel engine systems on the world market.
Further sessions discussed the methods and equipment used in the production of coconut oil and its further refinement along with the sourcing and availability of various models of this equipment suitable for small scale community based oil production schemes. This lead to explanations of the trail taken by the copra oil and cake through the international buyers to the manufacturers of various end products sold world wide and created interesting cost comparisons for various nations. Discussions regarding the benefits of producing the oil for international sale or to use it domestically given current production levels verses potential production caused debate between the utility companies being a potentially large customer and the grower/producers. One of the main points being that at this time fossil fuels were still cheaper to purchase in certain instances and there was no guarantee of continued supply and quality from the growers. This opened up the area of copra oil production performance in many countries that have long forgotten and neglected plantation areas with senile trees, and a continually failing transportation infrastructure that simply fails to collect the natural product still being produced and getting it to the mills for production. It also became evident that there is a need for some form of standard to be established for raw copra oil if it is to be used as a primary ingredient in a bio-fuel. All the products that can be mixed with the oil such as Kerosene, Diesel, ethanol etc all meet various international standards. As such they are of a known quality and grade when mixed with copra oil. It is the copra oil of unknown quality, usually purchased from a third party, that causes the wide range of documented successes and failures of bio-fuels being tested world wide.
Several presentations were made by international funding agencies detailing their requirements and limitations on funding issues available through their organizations.
The final two days revolved around generation and discussion of proposals by each country in attendance with the aim towards possibly following through on these proposals in the future. The workshop closed with the generation of a set of agreed recommendations for the future development of bio-fuels in the region.
Recommendations of Sub-regional workshop on Biofuels
in Vanuatu, 1 to 5 August 2005: “Challenges and
Opportunities to a viable Biofuel Sector”
Acknowledging the Governments of Japan, Denmark and the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in funding, and the Government of Vanuatu for hosting the sub-regional workshop on biofuels;
Considering the role of fossil fuels in Climate Change and the great economical, environmental and social benefits from the use of local biofuels as opposed to imported fossil fuels;
Recognising the great technical progress that has been made worldwide, in the Pacific region in general and in Vanuatu in particular on the use of Biofuels;
Noting that there is great potential for the application of biofuels in the region, coconut oil can replace an estimated 110 million litres per annum with the current resources and double this amount after successful replanting and re-structuring programmes;
Noting also that ethanol production has a technical potential of replacing over 200 million litres of petrol per annum with the appropriate production and blending facilities in place;
Recognising the role of Governments, International Donors, University of the South Pacific, University of Technology in Lae (PNG), South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) in creating an enabling environment in the Pacific region for biofuel usage;
Recognising the commitment of the University of the South Pacific, through its head of Physics and Chemistry department, to include applied biofuel research in its area of activities;
Acknowledging the often pioneering however essential role of the private sector to make for a vibrant and viable biofuel sector.
The workshop participants recommend:
1) SOPAC to continue its work on biofuel promotion in the Pacific region;
2) The biofuel project proposals formulated during this workshop to be considered for funding through the existing programmes administered by SOPAC, or to be submitted for consideration to International Donors (This includes multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors, to be identified)
3) SOPAC together with the country representatives to continue working transparently on a regional support programme to be submitted for funding to donors on the advancement of biofuel usage in the region;
4) SOPAC to establish a Pacific Biofuel Network by means of a website and a mailing-list with free access to anyone interested;
5) SOPAC to assemble recommended quality specifications of vegetable oil to be used as fuel in compression ignition engines;
6) University of the South Pacific Chemistry Department to support applied research in the analysis of biofuels, in particular the production of biodiesel and the assistance in simple vegetable oil quality assessment methodologies and work towards accreditation for biolipid analysis;
7) University of the South Pacific Physics Department to continue to support applied research in the usage of biomass for energy in general, and for at least two post-graduate students to carry out MSc. research in the area of biofuels;
8) University of Technology in Lae (PNG) to continue its work in the applied research of compression ignition engines on biofuels such as coconut oil;
9) SOPAC, in a collaborative effort, to investigate the total economic impact of partial/total displacement of fossil fuels imports by home-grown biofuels in its member countries, considering balance of payments, job creation, rural development, environmental costs and benefits, international green credits and the impact on remaining oil supply logistics.
10) Governments of Pacific island countries, given the benefits of biofuel usage over imports of fossil fuels, to consider implementing tax incentives for biofuels used in transport and electricity generation to support the emergence of a local biofuel sector.
11) The Governments of the Pacific island countries to continue to support appropriate educational and training needs of staff working in the areas of renewable energy in general and biofuel research anddevelopment in particular.
Representatives from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Independent State of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, University of the South Pacific, University of Technology in Lae.
Port Vila, 5 August 2005.