The Oil Palm

New technology to improve sustainability of MY palm oil mills palm oil industry has demonstrated ongoing commitment to improving sustainability outputs, with the announcement that mill operators in the Malaysian State of Sarawak will implement a state of the art biogas plant alongside a new palm oil mill.

The mill – expected to be completed in June 2013 and cost around RM 13 million – will reportedly be the first in the world to use new technology that treats effluent and recovers biogas from by-products generated in the palm oil producing process.
The new technology will be supplied by Japanese equipment manufacturer – Kubota – and is based on the companies ‘Anaerobic and Aerobic Membrane Bioreactor System’. The system works to extract biogas from Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME), a by-product created during palm oil milling.
Commenting on the announcement, Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment, Minister of Public Utilities and Minister of Industrial Development Sarawak Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said that “with over 1.2 million hectares of land cultivated with oil palm in Sarawak, there is great potential to utilise the palm oil empty fruit bunches (EFB) as biomass fuel and palm oil mill effluent for biogas production.
“Converting these wastes into renewable clean energy will not only reduce the green house impact but also produce useful renewable energy such as electricity and heat,” he said.
In a related development, scientists have developed a process to convert palm oil by-products into a usable sugar source. According to media reports, annual palm oil extraction produces approximately 13 million tons of waste plant matter. While some of this by-product is currently used as an energy source to power palm oil mills, scientists now believe that they can extract useful sugars from the by-product.