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September 6, 2019 11:15 AM, EDT

Indonesian Road Test Finds Palm Oil Biofuel ‘Safe’ for Cars

Palm Oil Sanjit Das/Bloomberg News

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Indonesia said it conducted the world’s longest road test using diesel blended with 30% palm oil, and the results showed that the biofuel is safe for cars.

The country, which is the No. 1 producer of palm, sent a fleet of cars including Toyota Motor Corp.’s Fortuner, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s Pajero Sport and Nissan Motor Co.’s Terra on a road test on Java island. After driving for 26,000 miles over two months, the vehicles were fine with no major engine problems, according to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

The test also showed that the SUVs fueled by 30% palm biofuel and 70% gasoil are more efficient and have lower emissions compared with when using 20% palm biodiesel, Dadan Kusdiana, the ministry’s head of research and development, said in a text message Sept. 6. The ministry aims to have the cars reach 50,000 kilometers within the next two weeks, he said.

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President Joko Widodo is aiming to gradually increase the country’s use of palm-based biofuels to help reduce its reliance on imported petroleum and the impact of subsidy costs, while also absorbing the nation’s excess supply of palm oil. The current mandatory blending requirement for 20% palm biofuel, known as B20, started in 2016, and the plan is to adopt B30 next year and B100 as early as 2021.

“The Energy Minister has submitted a preliminary report to the President in a cabinet meeting, and the President has directed that the B30 program must begin on January 1, 2020,” Kusdiana said.

The government has said that the B30 mandate will raise the country’s biodiesel consumption to 9 million kiloliters next year from an estimated 6.2 million kiloliters for this year. The commitment is crucial for improving the livelihoods of over 17 million Indonesians who rely on the palm industry for their incomes.