After long and difficult preparations Herbex Ltd was finally successful
and has completed the equipment and refined the process to make Bio
Diesel [BD] in Fiji.
Some of you have visited our operation and witnessed that we actually
make BD and that we use ingredients that are waste products available in
Fiji. The only imported components are yeast, Potassium Hydroxide and
Methanol. At least 70% of imported methanol can be substituted by
ethanol which we make from molasses, yeast and water. Solar energy is
another main ingredient in our process and reduces electricity usage by
more than 60%.
One major ingredient for BD is Waste Vegetable Oil [WVO] from kitchens
such as hotels and restaurants. The supply of WVO has become a
bottleneck. There is not enough WVO available for various reasons.
Much of the WVO has been overused, this means only very little BD at
very high cost can be made from this oil. (Those who overuse cooking oil
put consumers of food made with overused oil at serious health risk.)
A very large portion of WVO is mixed with the rubbish and dumped. It
will have negative impact on our environment. This oil will penetrate
the soil and spoil our water and sea shore. It is only a matter of time
before some tourists become aware of the mess and report what they
Another large amount is given to hotel and restaurant staff. This is a
grey area where sometimes kitchen staff hides the waste oil and takes it
home, sometimes sells it to be re-used in kitchens and even sometimes
the hotel sells the used oil to their staff.
We came to know that all chefs know about the extreme high amount of
free fatty acids in used oil and many chefs therefore do not allow their
staff to re-use the oil. Many chefs are very happy that our company
provides containers to collect waste oil and regularly picks it up from
their kitchens at no cost.
The Waste Management company charges $70.00 to remove one 200 liter
barrel of WVO. This company is not quite sure on their disposal methods
Despite all our efforts we can not get sufficient supply of waste oil
for our operation. This prevents us from training and employing more
people in our company.
We had already plans to lease land and grow oil seed plants and extract
their oil for our operation. These plans have to be put in place rather
sooner than later. Coconut oil is already too expensive in Fiji to
arrive at a profitable sales price for BD compared with the pump price
at petrol stations.
Our plans are therefore to grow Jatropha curca and Rhicinus communis on
unused land. Our company will carry the cost of growing, this is for
land preparation, cultivation of seedlings, planting, cultivation,
harvesting and oil extraction. We feel it is necessary to do this first
step ourselves because of the time constraints (we need to act fast) and
the expenses which we will meet from our own funds.
Oil Seed Plantation.
Jatropha curca and Rhicinus communis both grow already in Fiji. Both
plants grow well on marginal land e.g. sandy, gravel land and do not
require intensive cultivation. Collecting of ripe seeds and their
preparation for oil extraction is more labor intensive than cultivation.
Young plants need attention by keeping the weed down, more mature plants
need some pruning.
It is planed to have a truck mounted oil expeller that would process the
seeds at the place of harvest. This is particularly useful later on when
more growing areas need to be attended to. Instead of transporting the
seeds to one pressing station, and discarding of large volumes of press
cake, the pressing station comes to the farm and the press cake can be
turned into compost for fertilizer.
Bio Diesel from Fresh Oil
Despite the fact that fresh oil or Straight Vegetable Oil [SVO] can be
used in diesel engines it is better to transesterify SVO into Bio Diesel
and useful by-products such as glycerin and waxes which can be sold to
the local industry.
Oil for Export.
For a very long time palm oil has been the preferred raw material for
the bio fuel industry in Europe. This has led to large scale
deforestation in South East Asia and has had severe impact on land, wild
animals and people. Large natural forest areas have been burnt to make
land available for the plantation of oil palms. The extracted oil is
edible and has always been used for cooking. Only after prices for
fossil oil reached the US$50 / barrel mark palm oil became the raw
material of choice in Europe.
All this changed after the environmental impact of large scale planting
of oil palm monocultures could be felt from one end of the world to the
other. The EU decided in 2007 that oil from bio fuel must come from
areas that are not destroyed before mass plantations can be created. The
EU has turned to Africa and India for the supply of Jatropha oil.
Our company is continuously in touch with BD manufacturers around the
world and we have indications from the USA that similar thinking
patterns exist. A trend from edible to non edible sources of fuel has
begun and this trend will continue in the future.
For Fiji this could mean that food as a source of fuel will not work.
Non-food sources have more potential because they will not directly
impact food prices and importing countries are less concerned about
source of the fuel. I can see a growing opportunity for tropical regions
of the world to supply fuel in their own countries and for importing
The Next Steps.
• Moving our BD operation into an industrial area on land that allows us
to expand the operation.
• Expand the floor space we operate in.
• The existing equipment must be scaled up.
• More staff must be hired and trained.
• Oil extraction equipment must be imported or found locally.
What we need is support from agencies that are willing and capable of
assistance. In countries were BD and Ethanol fuel is recognized as
alternative fuels tax breaks and generous funding is available and most
importantly material to build BD plants is readily available. Here in
Fiji, most items used for operations like ours are either very
expensive, or must be imported. As an example, we had to import some
black iron pipes which we could not find in Fiji. We got the pipes from
a supplier in Texas, the cost was US$ 22.00 and the freight was
US$145.00 plus fees, duties and VAT in Fiji to the amount of FJ$120.00
With this letter I wish to explain our willingness to expand our
production further to the benefit of many people in Fiji. At the same
time I appeal to all of you who have offered to assist us one way or the
other to help us to put this bio fuel plant together.
I look forward to your input.
Gerhard Stemmler, CEO, Herbex Ltd., Lautoka, 15/03/2008
Mr. Stemmler can be contacted on: gks(at)clear.net.nz
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/