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Coconut oil as biofuel

During the Second World War the armies fighting in the Philippines used coconut oil to run diesel engines. Since then many further experiments and trials have been run successfully using coconut oil as a direct substitute for diesel. More…

DME® extra virgin coconut oil as biofuel?

Our DME® extra virgin coconut oil is a gourmet product. It would be uneconomical to use it as a biofuel outside of the village where it is made. in Australia, after import and distribution, the cost of 1L of virgin coconut oil is about 10 times the cost of diesel. Copra oil might be cheaper as a substitute. But in the village, virgin coconut oil (clean and well settled) can be an economical substitute for diesel in tractors, diesel generators or outboard motors.

Continued — Coconut oil as biofuel

Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea had diesel generators and trucks run on locally produced coconut oil during a trade blockade. A coconut oil/diesel fuel blend currently being used in Vanuatu first mixes 20 parts coconut oil with one part kerosene. This blend is then mixed 2:1 with diesel to give an effective 64% coconut oil biofuel. The Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Wollongong in Australia has done extensive tests on blends of coconut oil with diesel, kerosene and ethanol. The good news for the islands is that, in their hot conditions, pure, well-filtered coconut oil is indeed an excellent substitute for diesel. This has significant import-substitution and rural electrification implications. Baylor University in the USA was also working with Dr John Pumwa in assisting Papua New Guinea with research in this area.

There have been many exhaustive studies done on coconut oil as a biofuel and we have a number of papers for downloading on the subject.

Coconut oil as a biofuel — Summary

  • Coconut oil makes an excellent diesel substitute with some provisos.
  • It solidifies at approx 25°C
  • It runs best on stationary plant with a constant fixed load of around 75% capacity
  • It runs best with indirect injection systems
  • It operates better at approx 70°C as the viscosity is lower
  • It is necessary to clean the injector every 150 hours for the first year to determine the level of carbonization and to set up a suitable future regime.
  • A duel tank system works well starting and running the first 15 minutes on petroleum diesel, then switching over to coconut oil, and ending the day’s work in the reverse manner — shutting down for the last 15 mins on petroleum diesel.
  • Preheat the CNO fuel in the second tank using a heat exchanger running off the cooling system.
  • It is NOT successful with Lucas/CAV rotary injector pumps and the more modern engines, but older style engines coming out of China and India are much more suited as are gravity fed fuel tanks.
  • Coconut oil has fewer emissions and toxic fumes than petroleum diesel fuel has.
  • Coconut oil runs smoother and reduces engine knock.
  • Coconut oil is available to the producer in remote areas to run machinery and generate electricity when the roads are cut off in the wet season or when prices are too high
  • Coconut Oil is a sustainable resource

Biofuel in the Solomon Islands

We have recently witnessed DME® Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) being used in a 50/50 diesel/VCO mix by a number of our producers in the Solomon Islands and at our headquarters in Honiara. Specifically this was in a Toyota Hilux 4WD, a Mitsubishi Truck and in a tractor.

The key issue is to make sure that the oil is well settled and that there is no sediment in it. The fumes have a sweeter smell and the engines tend to run smoother on coconut oil.

As you move out from the town centres, imported fuel costs rise and the cost of coconut oil falls. At the crossover point and further out it’s cheaper to use coconut oil. This is one way of saving money and increasing disposable incomesIt can empower local communities to build their own future and not be enslaved to imports.

While 100% VCO can be used, some operators find that, with cooler nights, the oil becomes viscous. (Below 26 degrees Celsius it starts to solidify). With a blend this has not been aproblem for them.

Some of the above story featured on the SBS News (7 Aug 2006) in Australia along with the work of Kokonut Pacific in the Solomon Islands.


Coconut power in PNG

Coconuts can save the nation millions of kina by replacing much of the diesel fuel imported for cars, trucks and generators, a rural businessman believes. He has put his money where his mouth is by establishing a village factory to produce coconut oil fit for running diesel engines. He is German-born former volunteer Mathias Horn, who with Buka wife Carol runs the Buka Metal Fabricators company in Buka Town. He is not alone.

Two shipping companies based in Rabaul have been buying coconut oil from the long established Copra Products Ltd mill at Malaguna for the past couple of years and have largely replaced diesel fuel for their ships. Bureau of Statistics figures show that PNG imported 152 million litres of diesel fuel last year at a cost of about K191 million.

The petrol pump price for diesel in Port Moresby yesterday was K2.68.6 a litre. Buka coconut diesel is selling at K2 a litre. Coastal and islands provinces all have ample village plots and plantations of mature coconut trees and could set up similar operations to the Buka one. On present prices, it is realistic to buy copra and produce fuel oil for vehicles, says Mr Horn who was an instructor with the volunteer group German Development Service and was teaching metal fabrication and welding to students in Wapenamanda, Enga Province and Popondetta back in the 1990s and settled in Buka in 1998. Mathias and Carol heard about the experiments in coconut fuel in Vanuatu and other places.

For several years, he ran several of his own diesel engine vehicles exclusively on coconut oil. He vows the results are good for his vehicles and for the economy.

He showed a truck, a forklift and a car running on the fuel and said he had proved to his own satisfaction that there were no major obstacles to using coconut oil in diesel engines in the tropics. “We buy copra by the bag from the village people around Carol’s village, Lontis, and make sure it is dried to the right standard and then put it through the filtering process to get out the impurities,” Mr Horn said.

He showed me his filtering plant, a series of four tanks, where the oil goes through a step-by-step process to render it fit for use in diesel motors. It results in oil for engines, home-made oil lamps, chainsaw bar lubrication, and cosmetic oils for use by people on their skin and in their hair. They are making a very high grade cooking oil, which is healthy in terms of weight loss and preventing infections and heart disease

Now the vehicle used by the Bougainville Administrator Peter Tsiamalil, plus another dozen or so, are run on the Horn family’s coconut oil. Recently it was announced all of the government cars in Vanuatu should be converted to coconut oil fuel.

Mr Horn has a fuel pump in his company yard at Buka and sells the oil to other vehicle owners at a substantial savings compared with the normal diesel. This week, he was selling it for K2 a litre, compared with the retail price of K3.20 for diesel in the town.

More about coconut as biofuel

  • Hurricane lamp mix
    For places such as west Papua, where the price of fossil fuels is extremely expensive, using a mixture of 30% Kerosene and 70% coconut oil in hurricane lamps is not only a good way to save money but can allow lights to be on longer at night
  • LED Light Generator solution
    Another solution is to use rechargeable batteries to run LED lights that draw very little current, and then recharge the batteries with a diesel generator running on coconut oil biofuel. In fact a person with such a generator could use this as a small business opportunity by charging a nominal amount for charging other people’s batteries. He might even choose to introduce and sell such lights and batteries.
  • Kyoto Protocol
    It is an irony that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol currently excludes tree-crop plantations like coconut, oil palm and rubber from carbon sequestration credits. This is surprising since these long-lived perennial plantations are very similar to forest plantations in the carbon benefits they offer.
    While the only major commercial product of the forests is timber, in addition to timber the plantation crops give regular harvests of fruit or latex providing renewable energies (oil as a substitute for petroleum fuel, biomass and biogas) and substitution products (natural latex as a substitute for synthetic rubber) which make them readily compliant with other CDM projects. Also, in the case of coconut, most of the palms are owned by smallholders who comply with other main CDM goals like poverty alleviation and sustainability.
  • Coconut oil for clean air
    Coconut oil is an excellent additive to fuel for reducing air pollution. […] The technical feasibility of using coconut oil in diesel engines has been successfully demonstrated in trials in many Asian and Pacific countries, writes Bruce Fife, N.D. (Healthy Ways Newsletter E-Mail Edition Vol. 3 No. 1 — Piccadilly Books)

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