KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia produced an estimated 80 million tonnes dry weight of oil palm biomass in 2011, reflecting the importance and significant potential of biomass, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainudin.
This biomass includes empty fruit bunches, mesocarp fibres, oil palm shells, oil palm fronds and oil palm trunks. In addition, about 54 million tonnes of palm oil mill effluent, which is mainly water but also contains a substantial amount of biomass solids, was produced.
According to him, the industry produces huge volumes of various types of ligno-cellulosic biomass across its whole production chain in the process of producing palm oil and palm kernel oil.
Hamzah said in terms of volume, the ligno-cellulosic biomass produced by the industry has surpassed that of the oil.
"But, in terms of economic value, this biomass is insignificant compared to the oil. In fact, some of this biomass, such as the palm oil mill effluent, incurs costs for its treatment before disposal," he said at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) International Oil Palm Biomass Conference here.
He said although the oil palm industry has been extremely innovative in managing the abundant biomass, much more could be done as there is still an excess of biomass, especially unutilised empty fruit bunches, while stressing the need to futher enhance palm oil mill effluent management.
He also said that 17 oil palm biomass and six oil palm biogas projects were approved for grid connection up to 2011 under the Small Renewable Energy Power Programme, with four biomass and two biogas plants with a total capacity of 43 megawatts already connected to the grid.
As of June 2012, there were 26 biocomposting, 24 biomass energy and 36 biogas energy projects from the Malaysian oil palm industry registered with the Clean Development Mechanism programme under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In addition, as of August 2012, eight oil palm biomass energy projects have obtained total Certified Emissions Reduction or Carbon Credits of 1.61 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent while 12 oil palm biogas projects have obtained 363,845 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.
In line with the implementation of the Economic Transformation Programme, eight Entry Point Projects (EPP) under the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) have been identified, two of which are related to oil palm biomass.
Under EPP No. 5, all palm oil mills are encouraged to have biogas trapping facilities by 2020 to ensure that the palm oil mill effluent is fully utilised to produce renewable energy, while another project under EPP No. 7 will utilise empty fruit bunches to produce second-generation biofuels.
The North American technology is being sourced by the private sector to convert oil palm empty fruit bunches to second-generation biofuels.
Various overseas technologies on conversion of oil palm biomass into industrial sugars are also being evaluated which augur well for the development of new high-value growth areas based on oil palm biomass.
To date, there are 55 completed biogas plants, 16 under construction and 150 under planning.
At the event, Hamzah also launched the Oil Palm Biomass Energy Resources Data Book which contains data related to energy such as calorific values, chemical composition, moisture content and ash content.
MPOB also signed two agreements with two private companies, which could further enhance the biomass industry.
One was the research and development and commercialisation agreement with C.H.E. Metal Works Sdn Bhd to develop and adapt processing technologies for oil palm biomass pretreatment and power generation.
The other agreement signed was with Nippon Palm Corp Sdn Bhd for research and development in engineered palm plywood to enhance the quality of palm plywood products in the market.
MPOB Director-General Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May said MPOB has collaborated with Waris Nove Sdn Bhd for the production of cellulose and its derivative, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), and has successfully commissioned their commercial plant in Gebeng Industrial Area, Pahang and has produced prototype products.
She added that MPOB has also ventured into the agreement to commercialise the products in local and overseas markets for the detergent industry.
At the event, the Novelcell cellulose and Novelcell CMC products from empty fruit bunches were launched. - Bernama