Social network paves way for interest in fuel-producing treeBy Maurice Malanes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
AMBROSIO GUZMAN, a policeman of Bauko, Mt. Province, had just finished a training course on how to propagate a tree, which produces a promising alternative to fossil fuel.
But Guzman could not have known about the training had her sister-in-law, who works as a nurse in London, not called him to inform him about the activity.
Guzman’s sister-in-law is a member of the “A Tree a Day” Facebook group founded by environmentalist Michael Bengwayan in early 2010. Through the online group, Bengwayan announces important activities he and his staff at the Cordillera Ecological Center, a nongovernment organization also known as Pine Tree, conduct at their office and training site in Barangay Longlong in La Trininad, Benguet.
“After this training, I target to teach my relatives in propagating this tree, which we can mix with other trees like pine,” says Guzman, who engages in farming during his free time.
Guzman is among almost 20 participants, the last batch this year, who trained under Bengwayan and his staff on how to propagate petroleum nut.
Endemic to the Cordillera and other upland areas in the Philippines, petroleum nut (Pittosporum resineferum), is not a nut. It is a tree that can do in five years what millions of years have taken (in the case of fossil fuels)—produce petroleum.
Bengwayan says the beauty of this tree is that it could grow together with other trees. In its natural habitat in the Cordillera, petroleum nut, locally called apisang, abkel, abkol and da-il, is found among other trees like oak and other mossy forest species. It can also grow well with pine trees.
One thing that motivated Guzman to join the training was the petroleum nut’s promise as an alternative fuel for cooking, lighting and running engines.
During a break from the training, Bengwayan took a newly harvested petroleum nut fruit, pressed it with a vice grip, lit it and it produced a flame.
“With this tree, who needs fossil fuels?” he says.
Bengwayan and his staff also placed some newly extracted petroleum nut oil into a fabricated stove, lit it and the stove produced a bluish flame.
Bengwayan says petroleum nut extracts can free rural communities from buying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which costs P750 to P800 a tank.
And trees will be spared from those who use firewood for fuel, he says.
Seeing the potential of petroleum nut even for cooking alone, Guzman says he will mobilize relatives to establish nurseries for this tree.
Establishing nurseries and techniques how to germinate and propagate petroleum nut are part of the training package at Pine Tree.
Better than Jatropha
Citing studies, Bengwayan says petroleum nut is better than India’s Jatropha curcas. Jatropha has an octane rating of 43. Octane is a hydrocarbon found in petroleum nut. The octane rating is how much the fuel can be compressed before it spontaneously ignites.
In contrast, chemist Sheryl Lontoc of the chemistry department of the De La Salle University, who helped Pine Tree, says the chemical analysis of petroleum nut reveals that it has an octane rating of 54.
“This means the fuel from the tree has a higher potential of running engines, and by all indications, petroleum nut is far better than Jatropha curcas,” says Lontoc.
In comparison, fossil fuel has an octane rating of 91.
The analysis determined that petroleum nut oil contains 46 percent of gasoline-type components, such as heptane and dihydroterpene, says Bengwayan, noting Lontoc’s analysis.