UNS Researchers Develop Palm Shells As Hot Mix Asphalt Heater

SOLO – Palm shells used to be just worthless waste in oil palm plantations. But a team of researchers of the University of Sebelas Maret (UNS) has developed a new technology that allows the use of palm shells as the heater of hot mix asphalt through the process of gasification.

The team, consisting of four researchers Dr Sunu H Pranolo, Dr Joko Waluyo, Dr Ary Setyawan and Dr Prabang Setyono, of the UNS Research and Community Service Institution (LPPM UNS), has conducted a gasification technology research on the use of palm shells in the process of Asphalt Mixing Plant (AMP).

With the new technology, the research team managed to innovate the heating process without reducing the quality of asphalt and the quality of roads. Usually, the heating process is conducted with the use of oil fuels or diesel fuel, which is more expensive. But by using the palm wastes, the cost of heating the hot mix asphalt can be reduced very significantly.

The research team head Dr Sunu said recently that the palm shells have a relatively higher heating calorie (17 – 19 MJ/kg) compared to other biomass and are quite abundant in Sumatera and Kalimantan islands, where developments of road infrastructure are massively implemented.

Based on its economic analyze, the use of the technology can reduce the cost of energy consumption up to 75 percent, as the palm shells are the waste from the oil palm plantations. Indonesia is also the largest producer of palm oil in the world, so that the palm wastes are abundantly available.

Although its application will initially need gasification equipment and other supporting facilities, but its production cost will still be lower if compared to the use of oil fuels. Heating one ton of hot mix asphalt will only need 30-40 kilograms of palm shells at the price of only around Rp700 per kg. but by using the oil fuels (BBM), the hearing of every one ton of hotmix asphalt will need 14 liters at the price of around Rp6,000 -9,000 per liter.

“Despite of the need to construct additional gasification facility and employment of more workers, the use of the palm shells with the gasification technology is still cheaper by almost 75 percent. For the additional infrastructure, it can reach the break-even point within two years, while the facility can be used up to 10 years,” said Sunu.

Ary Setyawan, another researcher, said that based on technical research, the hot mix asphalt heated with the use of the palm shell gasification sees no quality reduction. The heated hot mix asphalt can be transported up to the distance of 10 km from the AMP location.

“With efficient cost of production, we can realize longer asphalt roads,” he said.

With the innovation, the team managed to get research grant fund from the oil palm plantation fund management board (BPDPKS) at a total of Rp3.5 billion. The research team has developed a palm shell gasification facility with PT Bara Energi Biomas in Sekadau, West Kalimantan.

Ary added that the team hopes the research result can be adopted as an input for drafting the policy of the public work and housing ministry (Kemen PUPR) on the use of gas from the gasification of palm shells, besides the fossil fuels as the source of heating energy in the process of mixing the asphalt.

The implementation of such policy will save the infrastructure budget, while the palm oil industries will get additional benefits from the use of the wastes. (*)

Source: suaramerdekasolo.com | Featured image via asianbiomass.com