Solusi Bahan Bakar yang Semakin Menipis, Energi Terbarukan dari Limbah Sawit

Sudah bukan rahasia, jika harga gas kini semakin mahal. Berulang kali rumor LPG 3 kg akan dihapuskan cukup membuat masyarakat ketakutan. Namun tidak bisa dipungkiri juga, jika terus dipakai dengan tidak bijak, energi di muka bumi ini akan habis. Maka, salah satu solusinya adalah dengan menggunakan energi terbarukan. Salah satunya adalah energi terbarukan dari limbah sawit.

 

Memang sudah saatnya, pemerintah mulai beralih menggunakan renewable energy untuk bersiap akan kemungkinan habisnya minyak dan gas bumi. Sementara kebutuhan energi di masa depan pun masih sangat dibutuhkan. Energi biomassa yang sampai saat ini belum banyak digunakan adalah energi terbarukan dari limbah pabrik kelapa sawit atau energi biomassa.

Limbah pabrik kelapa sawit di Indonesia kini bisa mencapai jutaan ton per tahun. Jika diolah dengan tepat, dari banyaknya limbah tersebut bisa diubah menjadi biogas dan digunakan sebagai energi yang terbarukan. Diperkirakan dari banyaknya limbah pabrik kelapa sawit dalam setahun, dapat memenuhi hingga satu milyar KK dalam satu tahun. Bayangkan, sudah berapa banyak minyak dan gas bumi yang dihemat dengan cara ini.

Biogas sendiri adalah gas yang sifatnya terbarukan, dan lebih ramah lingkungan jika dibandingkan dengan BBM dan BBG. Komponen utama dari biogas adalah gas metan (CH4), yang dihasilkan dari pengolahan kotoran ternak dan kotoran manusia. Sebenarnya pemanfaatan biogas sudah digunakan sejak beberapa puluh tahun lalu, namun belum banyak yang sadar jika limbah atau kotoran ini dapat menjadi energi hijau dari limbah pks.

Gas metan atau komponen utama dari biogas ini dapat dihasilkan dari dua limbah sekaligus, yaitu limbah kelapa sawit padat dan limbah kelapa sawit cair. Meskipun yang dihasilkan sama, namun limbah kelapa sawit padat butuh waktu lebih lama dan harus melewati proses yang lebih rumit untuk mendapatkan gas metan. Bahan bakar pengganti yang berasal dari limbah-limba ini diharapkan nantinya akan menjadi pembangkit listrik energi terbarukan yang akan menyelamatkan masa depan.

Berbicara tentang gas metan, pembentukan gas ini sendiri melalui proses yang cukup kompleks. Beberapa jenis mikroba secara bertahap akan melakukan perompakan bahan organik di limbah cair atau limbah padat hingga muncul gas metan. Berikut tahapan yang harus dilalui hingga muncul gas metan:

  • Pertama, kelompok mikroba hidrolitik memecah bahan organik menjadi senyawa lebih kecil, seperti polimer dan monomer. Dari proses ini, akan muncul bahan organik seperti glukosa, asam amino, dan asam lemak
  • Kedua, kelompok mikroba fermentasi asam. Kelompok ini merombak monomer organik menjadi asam, yaitu senyawa asam organik, alkohol serta keton
  • Ketiga, kelompok mikroba acetogenik merombaknya menjadi asam asetat, CO2 dan H2
  • Keempat, mikroba menghasilkan metanogenik, dan akan mengubah asam-asam ini menjadi gas metan

Semua proses terjadi tanpa adanya bantuan dari O2, atau dikenal juga dengan kondisi anaerob. Pembentukan gas metan ini cukup lambat, dan gas yang dihasilkan pun cukup sedikit. Maka, untuk mengubah limbah pabrik kelapa sawit dalam jumlah besar harus dilakukan rekayasa. Caranya:

  • Pertama, limbah cair ditempatkan pada bioreaktor yang sudah diatur sehingga kondisinya optimum untuk memproduksi biogas
  • Kedua, akan ditambahkan mikroba yang mempercepat pembentukan gas metan
  • Ketiga, bioreaktor ditutup rapat sehingga tidak membuat gas metan keluar dari bioreaktor
  • Keempat, gas metan yang telah terbentuk dialirkan ke tangki penampungan

Proses ini akan menghasilkan energi hijau dari limbah pabrik sawit. Gas metan yang sudah ditampung bisa digunakan untuk banyak kepentingan. Alternatif lain adalah, memampatkan gas metan serta mencairkan gas ini, lalu dipindahkan ke tabung-tabung kecil seperti tabung elpiji. Jika melalui pengolahan yang tepat dan sempurna, gas metan ini dapat diubah menjadi energi yang besar, dan menjadi pembangkit listrik energi terbarukan.

Jika pengembangan ini terus mendapat perhatian dan diteliti dengan serius, bukan tidak mungkin gas LPG yang semakin mahal harganya akan digantikan dengan biogas yang jauh lebih murah. Solusi bahan bakar yang kian meninggi sudah ada, semoga segera mendapat penanganan yang serius, dan melewati tahap penelitian lebih lanjut.

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