Maintaining clean air and fresh water resources is vitally important for the villages within and in proximity of the group’s estates, as well as for the group’s operations in the estates and mills.

The quality of river water, ground water and tap water is monitored regularly across the group’s plantations and employee facilities to ensure that the relative BOD and COD remain within the applicable regulatory standards. The group’s mills operate with zero effluence, so that, in compliance with Indonesian law and RSPO certification standards, no by-products resulting from the production of CPO or CPKO are discharged into local water courses. Air quality is tested regularly against set parameters, including levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, to ensure that it too remains within regulatory standards.

Minimising water use

Production of CPO and CPKO uses high quantities of water which must be carefully managed to minimise waste and to reduce the risks associated with droughts during the dryer seasons. Water usage inevitably increases as FFB production increases, so the group has been working to improve the efficiency of water consumption in its mills and has developed a time bound plan with the objective of keeping water usage below 2.5m³ per tonne FFB.

Monitoring of water use efficiency for the 3 mills has been conducted since 2013 to ensure that water use is in accordance with environmental management best practices and does not exceed the limit of the water use permit granted by the government. Water use efficiency data from the 3 mills shows an overall positive trend since 2013 despite fluctuations, and remains below the set target.

  1. Total water used includes domestic water usage and process water usage at the mills
  1. For POM, COM and SOM, average water usage (per tonne of FFB processed) is below the maximum set standard
  1. Water conservation is focused on:
      • utilisation of condensate water for processing in the mills
      • preventative maintenance on flowmeters and routine periodic calibrations
      • routine preventative maintenance for pumps at the mills
      • monitoring for, and repairs of, leaks in the water reticulation network
      • raising awareness and understanding of employees about the need for reducing water usage
  1. Time bound commitment to keep surface water extraction and usage within the government approved license limits on a monthly basis. Monitor and evaluate compliance at each mill every month
  1. Dinas Lingkungan Hidup Kabupaten Kutai Kartenegara (Department of Living Environment, Kutai Kartenegara Regency) (DLHK) is the local government agency responsible for verifying company compliance with water usage permits at each mill. The group reports all monthly water usage figures to DLHK for verification of compliance

All 3 of REA’s mills continued to be comfortably below the target in 2022, although overall water usage showed a slight increase from 1.4m³ per tonne in 2021 to 1.5m³ per tonne in 2022 due to changes in facility wash down procedures. The group is re-evaluating its water usage and targeting reductions in 2023 by, inter alia, increasing the amount of recycled water used for facility wash downs.

Maintenance of water quality

Water quality of rivers is measured and monitored in terms of BOD and COD.

The greatest risk of water pollution associated with REA’s operations is from palm oil mill effluent (POME) and run-off or leachates from fertilisers. The high organic matter content of untreated POME means that it has a high BOD and will starve aquatic flora or fauna of oxygen if it enters a water course. However, by utilising as much of this organic matter as possible to produce fertiliser and electricity, the group obtains valuable resources whilst also mitigating the risk of water pollution.

The group’s first strategy for extracting value from POME is to capture the methane produced when the organic matter content is digested anaerobically, and to convert the biogas collected to electricity. Unlike the traditional open pond system for digesting POME, the methane capture facilities are enclosed systems and thus reduce the risk of untreated POME polluting the environment.

The group’s second strategy for extracting value from POME is to mix it with empty oil palm fruit bunches and convert it into organic compost on site. The availability of this compost allows inputs of inorganic and organic fertilisers to be optimised. This in turn has reduced the associated risk of water pollution from leaching or run-off.

GHG emissions from POME have reduced substantially following the installation in 2012 of the methane capture facilities at POM and COM. Such facilities utilise a substantial portion of the POME produced at POM and COM for the generation of renewable energy. POME that is not used for methane capture, including the POME from SOM, together with the digested POME residue from the methane capture facilities is pumped through a series of open ponds to reduce its BOD. Thereafter, it is used for land application in flat beds between rows of oil palm, allowing the remaining nutrient content to be used as a fertiliser. The BOD and COD of the POME in the final open pond at each mill is subject to monthly testing by a third party to ensure that it remains below the legal limit for land application in Indonesia, being 5,000mg/litre and 10,000mg/litre, respectively.

BOD and COD content in river water

  1. Water quality standard for surface water (COD value) as per East Kalimantan local government regulation No. 2 of 2011
  1. As evidenced by the monitoring and evaluation results for 2017-2022, the COD levels at COM & SOM remain within the quality standards and comply with regulations
  1. Corrective and preventative actions:
      • commitment to consistently apply best management practices in line with relevant regulations
      • carry out periodic patrols involving local communities
      • train and educate all stakeholders
  1. Monitor and evaluate compliance in each mill every 6 months
  1. Dinas Lingkungan Hidup Kabupaten (The Regency of Environmental Services) is the government agency responsible for verifying the compliance level of BOD and COD in surface water in each mill every 6 months

BOD and COD content in POME

  1. Regulatory standards for mill effluent/POME quality standards refer to Indonesian Minister of Environment Decree No. 29 2003
  2. Regulated parameters include BOD, pH; COD is not regulated (but parameters are determined and designated internally)
  3. The quality of POME for POM, COM and SOM complies with regulatory standards
  4. Time bound plan for achieving the quality standards of mill effluent (POME) monthly
  5. Dinas Lingkungan Hidup Kabupaten (The Regency of Environmental Services) is the government agency responsible for verifying the compliance level of BOD and COD in POME in each mill every month