President Joko Widodo pushes for seaweed processing in Indonesia

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's President Joko Widodo takes the stage to speak about the planned new capital Nusantara, at Ecosperity Week in Singapore June 7, 2023. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Indonesia President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, announced his plans to drive the development of a domestic seaweed processing industry, which includes the production of fuel. Speaking at a recent business conference, Jokowi highlighted the successful implementation of downstream policies for mineral resources and expressed his intention to extend this approach to other commodities.

To support the domestic processing of nickel ore, Indonesia banned its exports in 2020, resulting in significant investments in smelters for metal production and facilities for extracting materials used in electric vehicle batteries.

Jokowi stressed that the downstream policy would also be applied to agricultural products, such as seaweed. Indonesia happens to be the world’s second largest producer of seaweed. While seaweed is commonly used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, Jokowi highlighted its potential to produce bioethanol.

Indonesia is estimated to produce 10.2 million metric tons of seaweed this year, with the majority being exported in its raw form. While bioethanol is traditionally produced from sugar molasses, certain types of seaweed have gained attention as alternative feedstocks for renewable fuel production. Expanding bioethanol production capacity is a priority for Indonesia, as it aims to increase the fraction of renewable fuel in its energy consumption.

Currently, Indonesia mandates the use of B35, a biodiesel blend containing 35% palm oil-based fuel, but there is no requirement for a bioethanol mix in gasoline due to limited sugar supply. However, authorities have suggested considering cassava as a potential source for bioethanol.

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