An alternative source that does not rely on fossil fuels was established in Infanta, Quezon to help supply the energy demand in rice and rice-based communities, Jan. 29.

Located in Brgy. Binonoan, the bioethanol distillation facility produces energy without negative impact on environment as nipa sap is processed into biofuel for spark-ignition engines that farmers commonly use.

Nipa is an indigenous product of Infanta.

“This facility built basically produces hydrous bioethanol (95% alcohol) fuel to be used for small farm machines,” Engr. Alexis T. Belonio, lead inventor of the technology, said.

According to Belonio, hydrous bioethanol, which can be produced from the farm like nipa sap, sugar molasses, and sweet sorghum, is a good alternative for fueling pumps, threshers, dryers and small rice mills.

“We need to increase rice production. One way to do this is to improve [farm practices from land preparation to post-harvest], and by [doing this], we need mechanization. In mechanization, we need fuel, so what is mechanization without the gasoline? [With this facility], we have an option [on what energy type to use],” said Belonio, the first Filipino to win the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2008 for his breakthrough creation of a simple rice hull-powered stove.

“We are aware of the pressing need for alternative fuel to run farm engines. We want to manufacture machines for farming that do not depend on fossil fuel,” former PhilRice Executive Director Eufemio Rasco Jr. said during the launching.

Three bioethanol facilities will be set-up in three years to discover the appropriate model that is competitive for farming.

“With our depleting fossil fuel supply, the bioethanol technology is a cost-efficient system because we can now produce and use clean energy at the least cost,” Belonio said.

Belonio, however, said that the technology is being modified to minimize corrosion of engine parts, particularly the fuel tank and carburetor.

“We are retrofitting the engine so that the feeding of fuel bypasses the fuel tank and the carburetor. Then, the hydrous bioethanol may be ready to use,” Belonio said.

Belonio is optimistic on the future of rice farming with less, if not without, use of fossil energy.

“If we are talking about the future of this technology, it is unlimited. We may also study coconuts, water lilies as sources; there are a lot of options as long as there are sources of sugar,” Belonio added.

A pilot testing of the machine is expected to be conducted this year on pumps, transport vehicles like tricycles and motors, micromill and bangka if possible.

The project is jointly implemented by the Mariano Marcos State University, Philippine Rice Research Institute, UP Los Baños, and the local government unit. (PhilRice Development Communication Division)