Rice farming and coastal communities may soon benefit from the first nipa bioethanol production facility launched on Oct. 7 in Brgy. Cabaggan, Pampalona, Cagayan.

Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr., executive director of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), said that the bioethanol project in Cagayan, a province in Northern Luzon with rich source of nipa extracts, may help supply local energy demand.

“Fossil resources have been dwindling since the 1970s. This project with the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) will increase farmers` competitiveness as nipa is a renewable energy that can fuel farm machinery and pump boats,” Rasco, a pioneer in nipa research, said.

In the Philippines, nipa is considered an important source of alternative fuel because it produces high amount of sap that can be converted to alcohol. Producing as much as 26,000  L of alcohol in a hectare per year, nipa is four more times more productive than sugarcane – today`s main source of alcohol, which can only generate  6,700 L.

The facility`s power, tested through a retrofitted water pump, produced 95-96% bioethanol during the launching`s ceremonial run. Engr. Nathaniel R. Mateo, MMSU project collaborator, said that 100 L of nipa sap can produce 7-9 L of bioethanol within 4.5 hours.

“We felt and observed in an international level the connection between energy and rice supply in 2007-2008 when increasing oil price escalated the price of rice to its peak. That event heightened the importance of developing a new energy system that is renewable, decentralized, and diversified,” Rasco said.

Rasco said that nipa is good source of bioethanol or water-free alcohol produced from the fermentation of sugar or converted starch, because it does not compete as food unlike other sources such as corn, cassava, sorghum, and sugarcane.

As the locals produce nipa lambanog or wine, project implementers are also improving their distilling facility to increase alcohol yield and efficiency.

With the improved facility, nipa wine with 60% alcohol content and 28% yield conversion rate was produced. Previously, nipa wine is produced with 40% alcohol at 22-24% yield conversion rate.

“We hope to have this facility in more places in the Philippines and make nipa a widely used fuel by farmers and fisherfolk,” Rasco said.

The bioethanol facility is co-implemented by the local government unit of Cagayan and MMSU`s Dr. Shirley Agrupis, lead of the nipa bioethanol project, and Dr. Fiorello Abenes, project consultant and US senior Fulbright fellow.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute