Biodiesel blend of 5% was tested in 2007 with the assistance of LTA and the bus companies. The tests included fuel consumption and opacity testing. At the end of the testing period mixed results were obtained for the buses and vehicles. To improve its facility for fuel testing, the Department of Energy installed a B100 testing facility at the Central Plant pool Walubay in 2015. The facility is compatible with and can test B100 and E100 fuel blends.
Furthermore, the Department has also been working with USP to establish an accredited biofuel laboratory at USP. This is the first of its kind in Fiji and the region and the facility will be able to test biodiesel and ethanol fuels.
Fiji is currently using Euro 2 diesel and unleaded petrol capped at 500 ppm sulfur content. However, the Cabinet has approved the revision of the fuel standards to Euro 5 by January 2018. The only exception would be unleaded petrol which would be capped at 50ppm and further reduced to 10ppm by 2021. The introduction of cleaner fuels is expected to greatly reduce GHG Emissions and assist in the achievement of NDC targets by 2020.
In the petroleum sector, three companies including Total Fiji Limited; Mobil Oil and Pacific Energy are operating in the country. This companies procure fuel from Singapore, Australia and Korea and also supply fuel to other pacific island countries.
Diesel Refinery (Fiji) Limited is another company that is currently setting up terminal in Vatia Ba. The company imports fuel from Russia and supplies to local markets especially in the western division.
Fiji’s biofuel program is mostly in pilot stage with some commercial interest and exclusively focuses on deriving biofuel from coconut, jatropha and pongamia. Other feed stocks that have attracted interests from stakeholder include sugarcane, maize, cassava, palm, dilo, algae based biofuels and cellulosic biofuels. The status of the main biofuel feedstocks are outlined below:
Coconut is currently the main feedstock for biofuel production in the country. However, the production of coconut is generally declining in the country. The total area under coconut in 1991 was 46,764 hectares, this number declined to 15,009 hectares in 2009. Currently, the coconut cultivation in the country is focused around Eastern division and in the Northern divisions. The Cakaudrove province is the biggest producer and home to more than 60% of coconut plantation area.
The major decline in the area planted has been largely a consequence of natural disasters (cyclones and drought), expiry of land leases, industrial developments, low yield (25 nuts per tree per year), high transportation costs and low profitability due to unfavorable market prices. These factors as well as labour required led to farmers losing interest in this industry. The coconut decline reached its worse scenario after the Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016.
The only Pongamia plantation in Fiji was owned by the ‘Biofuels International’. The company planted Pongamia in 300 acres of land and eventually (as per business plans) plans to expand to 100,000 hectares. The company had planted 140,000 trees in the plantation site, of which ~50,000 survive (remaining were lost to fire).
Jatropha is native to Fiji, the major use of the tree is in supporting vanilla trees. Jatropha test plantation site exists in Wainigata Research Station. Agriculture department’s local office have been collecting seeds from the site for productivity analysis, but no further details are available on the intervention.
Palm in not cultivated for commercial purposes in Fiji. A Malaysia based company has displayed interest in developing palm based biodiesel project in the country. As on July 2015, the company has already secured land lease in the Western division for starting a nursery for palm seedlings. It will take another one year to raise the seedlings and additional 2.5-3 years before the palm plantations are mature enough for harvesting.
Calophyllum Inophyllum (known as Dilo in Fijian) is a native plant in Fiji that bears spherical fruit with seeds that contain high oil content. There has been research done on using Dilo as a biofuel internationally but there is little information available on the local species and habitat. Dilo is a plant that will be studied further for its potential as a biofuel.
Sugarcane & Molasses
Sugarcane is the most important agriculture crops supporting the most important industry (sugar) in the country and have been considered as potential feedstock along with molasses for ethanol production. Once a backbone for the Fiji economy, sugarcane production has declined by around 34% from a total of 3,380,000 ton in 1991 to 2,197,950 ton in 2009. The total area under sugarcane has decreased from 112,192 hectares in 1991 to 57,177 hectares in 2009. Over 50% of the total production was from the Mana variety. Sugar production is concentrated in five provinces of the country and Ba province being the biggest.
The Fiji Sugar Corporation has expressed interest in diversifying operations into ethanol production. A feasibility study as well as the detailed project report has been completed however physical progress on the project is yet to materialize. The establishment of the National Biofuel Policy 2017 is expected to reignite further interest into this initiative.
Biodiesel production from Coconut oil started in the early 2011 by a company called Biodiesel Group (Fiji) Limited however, the increasing cost of feedstock and the declining cost of regular diesel affected the viability of the company.
The Department of energy is currently exploring other non-edible feedstocks; biodiesel production technologies and incentives to improve the viability of biodiesel production. Lately a non profit organization is setting up a biofuel training centre at USP for piloting of biodiesel in collaboration with USP IAS. This initiative could be expanded into the Government owned maritime biofuel mills.
The Fiji Government through the Department of Energy have established 9 Renewable Diesel plants in the islands of Koro, Cicia, Rotuma, Gau, Lakeba, Vanuabalavu, Rabi, Moala and Matuku. The plants produce and sell renewable diesel produced from blending of regular diesel with refined coconut oil as fuel for the rural maritime communities.
The aim is to provide the communities with affordable and environmentally friendly fuels which reduces carbon emissions. While most of the plants were badly affected by TC Winston, Lakeba and Rabi biofuel is expected to recommence operation soon.
The Fiji Department of Energy continues to explore emerging global biofuel technologies which could be more viable for Fiji scenario. This includes Green diesel (Hydro oxygenated vegetable) which directly converts vegetable oil into green diesel through reaction with hydrogen gas.
Other technologies that are being followed closely by the department include production of bio-oil from biomass or biodiesel from inedible feedstocks. This could potentially eliminate the environmental burden caused by Heavy Fuel Oil in the electricity sector.