* Oil from the humble, but ubiquitous, coconut palm is beginning to replace diesel fuel in Papua New Guinea and islands throughout the South Pacific.
In addition to providing a readily available and cheaper alternative to increasingly expensive oil imports, which puts foreign exchange earnings demands on small economies typically in poor position to finance them – the move to coconut oil biofuel is also empowering local residents and small businesses, giving them greater say and control over their economic future.
*Photos courtesy of Kokonut Pacific
Coconut Telegraph Redux
A curious illustration of traditional meets high tech economy, for two months now mobile telecoms operator Digicel Pacific has been using coconut oil as a fuel to run its mobile telecoms tower on the northern tip of Buka, a small island northeast of mainland Papua New Guinea.
Digicel management noticed a growing use of coconut oil as fuel in local cars and trucks. Management contacted local coconut oil refiner and German immigrant Matthias Horn about the potential to use coconut oil fuel to power its cell towers and the two sides came to an agreement, reported the Solomon Times in their July 14 online edition.
Digicel is committed to rolling out affordable, high quality and innovative mobile services across the country to all 20 provinces, Digicel Pacific chief operations officer Fiona McGloin told reporters.
The company plans to use coconut oil fuel to run the Buka tower for at least three months. “If it is successful we are planning on rolling out more sites operating on coconut oil fuel,” McGloin said. It’s also experimenting with other environmental friendly power sources such as solar power to run its mobile radio sites, she said.
“There is a clear potential for coconut oil to become a better product to use than fuel in PNG. It is an environmental friendly product and in light of the current fuel price it is a cheaper alternative,” Horn told reporters.
“Furthermore it is a good product for PNG since coconut oil is produced in the country so we will no longer have to be so dependant on imported fuel in the future. If we experiment with it now and market it in the right way, coconut oil could become a major source of income for all copra producers in PNG especially if it hits the international markets as a serious replacement for fuel.”
For those interested in organizations working to empower local residents in the tropical South Pacific by making use of coconuts as a source of sustainable fuel, as well as a range of other products, check out Kokonut Pacific.