From: Manny Galvez - 09/05/2010
The government plans to develop a $5-million (P220-million) ethanol farm at a 100-hectare site in the province using the Korean technology of extracting ethanol from seaweed.
Sen. Edgardo Angara told The STAR that the Department of Science and Technology and the Congressional Commission on Science and Engineering (Comste) which he chairs, is now fine-tuning their partnership with the South Korean government to develop the country's seaweed industry for the production of ethanol and other high value-added products.
Angara said the project will be implemented in two clusters, one in the provinces of Aurora, Isabela and Quirino in Northern Luzon and another in Bohol where a similar $5-million facility has been established to jump-start the cooperative venture. He said he is looking at the municipality of Dilasag in northern Aurora as site of the biofuel farm project.
Angara recalled that two years ago, the Korean Institute for Industrial Technology developed the process of extracting ethanol from seaweed, which proved to be more cost-efficient and advantageous than other sources of biofuel. He said seaweed, which is abundant in Aurora grows faster than other biofuel sources such as sugar cane and wood and allows for as much as six harvests per year.
"Because seaweeds do not have lignin, pretreatment is not needed before converting them into fuels and thus, seaweed ethanol is cheaper to produce than other biofuels," he said.
Angara said that the country being the world's top exporter and producer of processed seaweed, it will surely benefit greatly from the technology and further enlarge feedstock for clean energy. "In contrast to wood biofuel, seaweed ethanol absorbs up to seven times more carbon in the atmosphere, and thus, has a greater contribution to climate-change mitigation," he stressed.
Angara said the project would benefit the economy of Dilasag and Aurora as a whole since aside from ethanol, seaweed has many other useful byproducts such as animal feed, fertilizer, soil conditioner and cosmetics, which offer excellent livelihood and agro-business investment opportunities. "The potential for invigorating rural coastal communities in Aurora is tremendous as a mini agro-industrial complex can spring close to the seaweed farm-poultry and piggery, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, biopharmaceutical facilities and eco-tourism destinations," he said.
The seaweed farm project could prove to be a breath of fresh air in the country where the El Niño phenomenon is feared to cause extensive damage to the seaweed sector, with production seen declining by 40 percent to 50,000 metric tons this year. Indonesia, the world's biggest supplier of raw seaweeds, already reported a significant dip in production due to the long dry spell felt as early as the last quarter of 2009. Increasing seawater temperature is affecting seaweed farms, decreasing output.
The Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines had projected that less dry seaweeds could force traders and farmers to hoard the remaining slim supply to jack up prices which will imperil the whole $122-million-a-year seaweed industry.
Despite struggling to produce the raw materials, the country continues to be a world leader in processed seaweed, which is being used as food.
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/