PETALING JAYA: Although it may be some time before Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) sees its latest foray into the graphene and carbon nanotubes (CNT) industry with a Turkish group bearing fruit, the plantation conglomerate maintains that it is a worthwhile investment.
Group president and chief executive officer Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah told StarBiz that FGV was constantly looking for specialised and niche areas of business that could further add value, particularly to its downstream business operation.
FGV’s subsidiary FGV-Cambridge Nanosystems Ltd (FGV-CNS) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Turkey-based Nanokomp Ileri Teknoloji Malzemeleri Arge Dan Ins San Tic Ltd Sti (Nanokomp) in Ankara last month for the production of graphene and CNT to cater to the European market.
Under the venture, FGV will supply methane, a by-product from its oil palm plantations, for the conversion into ultra-high grade advanced materials, graphene and CNT.
“While this venture initially will not contribute significantly to our overall earnings, FGV will channel its resources with the hope of ensuring that it will bear fruit in terms of good return on investment within an acceptable time frame,” Emir added.
“After all, we had initiated the potential supply of high-grade graphene and CNTs with the execution of the MoU with Nanokomp in Turkey in just a little over six months.”
He added that FGV was poised to be the first company in the world to pioneer and produce high-grade CNT and graphene from by-products of crude palm oil and other hydrocarbons.
FGV has received flak for venturing into a non-core business with little-known future prospects, with critics pointing at FGV’s past experiences in handling downstream projects. Although meant to expand FGV’s businesses, some did not take off.
An example would be the termination of a major joint venture between FGV’s unit Twin Rivers Technologies Enterprises with global agribusiness giant Bunge Ltd last year in its soy and canola crushing plant in North America.
Emir maintained that FGV had always been true to its core business by participating in the full value chain of the agribusiness.
In this case with the Turkish joint venture, the partnership would further strengthen the group’s downstream potential in a niche area of business with global demand.
“In relation to FGV group’s overall revenue, the investment in FGV-CNS is relatively small. With the investment, we are able to tap into the technological space that would enable FGV to convert our waste from our plantation business into high-valued material and ultimately provide financial returns to our shareholders.
“Ultimately, we are in the upstream, midstream and downstream of the oil palm plantation sector,” he said. “Given that the purchase agreement has not been entered at this juncture, the exact monetary value has yet to be finalised.”
FGV’s joint venture with CNS, a spin-off from UK-based University of Cambridge, in the 70:30 deal was sealed last October. FGV will provide the raw material (methane and other by-products from crude palm oil) while CNS will provide proprietary technology to produce a series of carbon nanotubes for Nanokomp.
“Given FGV’s background in research and development, along with the expertise of the team of scientists at CNS coupled with a decade of research and development in CNT, we trust that we have the ingredients to accelerate the deployment of FGV-CNS compact production systems on a large scale.
“This joint venture sets us as the first company in the world to pioneer and produce high-grade CNT and graphene from by-products of crude palm oil and other hydrocarbons,” Emir pointed out.
Nanokomp will then mix the material with resin and infiltrate carbon fibres to form prepregs for industrial manufacturing.