Filipino pride: SEAOILs biofuel program as an ASEAN model

The pioneering efforts of SEAOIL Philippines Inc. in the development and commercial use of biofuels have been recognized as a model program for the Southeast Asian region, a ranking company executive said.

At the recent Ethanol and Biofuels Asia 2008 Conference in Singapore, SEAOIL vice president for supply Bernie Raymundo pointed out that the company was instrumental in changing the landscape of the Philippine fuel industry as it hurdled massive challenges in introducing the use of alternative fuels to motorists.

Being the first to launch biofuel, SEAOIL faced an enormous challenge, not only in converting and modifying its distribution system but also in complying with the stringent requirements of the implementing rules and regulation of the biofuels law, while addressing the resistance of motorists and their preference for conventional fuel, she said.

SEAOIL, the first independent oil firm to open a retail station after the deregulation of the Philippine oil industry in 1997, was the first to launch its ethanol-blended E10 gasoline in all of its filling stations nationwide in August 2005, more than a year before the Biofuels Act was signed into law.

During that time, other multinational oil players deemed it impossible. Now, these fuel companies are taking SEAOIL's lead to duly implement the biofuels mandate, Raymundo noted.

The Biofuels Act of 2006 the first of its kind in Southeast Asia mandates that within two (2) years from the effectivity of the law, at least 5% Bioethanol shall comprise the annual total volume of gasoline fuel actually sold and distributed by each and every gasoline company in the country After four years, by 2011, the Department of Energy will mandate the increase in blend to a minimum of 10% Bioethanol.

For diesel, a blend of one percent coco methyl ester (CME) took effect within three months of the laws effectivity in February 2007, and will rise to a two percent CME blend within two years.

Raymundo acknowledged that marketing E10 prior to the laws mandate was very difficult, as a massive information campaign was necessary to address the resistance of the motorist especially for those with carbureted and older model vehicle.

To rouse public interest on the use of biofuels, she said the company joined other advocates such as the Department of Energy, US Department of Energy, United States Agency for International Development, the Sustainable Energy Development Program, Chemrez Technologies and the Philippine Touring Cars Association in promoting alternative fuels.

The group has launched a dedicated website (www.biofuels.com.ph) to serve as the primary Internet resource center for biofuels.

The SEAOIL official said the company also addressed other issues raised against biofuels, including transport, handling, blending, storage and other operational concerns.

At the stations level, SEAOIL formulated an audit system to implement the highest standard for monitoring and cleaning of cites. An audit group was formed whose main objective is to regularly conduct a check of all stations at random to ensure that SEAOIL standard procedures on customer service, calibration and product quality monitoring are implemented, Raymundo said.

On operational issues, she said the company has been undertaking rigid quality control to ensure material compatibility, corrosivity, conductivity, phase separationin storage and distribution system of its products.

Despite these accomplishments, Raymundo stressed there are a lot more that needs to be done to fully reap the benefits of using biofuels. Aside from the global harmonization of product standards in biodiesel, especially with respect to oxidation stability, deposits and corrosion, there should also be a corresponding move to harmonize vehicles and vehicle parts specifications.

Its time to upgrade distribution system in Asia to meet requirements of alternative fuels especially as blends of biofuels are increased to higher percentages, she added.