Kota Marudu Member of Parliament

Huge Potential For Power Generated Through Biogas And Biomass

TAWAU (May 19, 2014): There is huge potential for electricity generated from the oil palm industry especially from biogas and biomass that also have immediate economic and environmental benefits, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

He said the potential was big especially with the right kind of clean and efficient, as well as innovative technologies to harvest palm oil waste to generate electricity.

Dr Maximus who visited Teck Guan’s Sungai Burung Palm Oil Mill (SPOM) here, said the mill which included the only pilot bio ethanol facility available using oil palm empty fruit bunches (EFB), is a fine example of innovation to produce energy from waste.

The pilot plant was jointly built by Mitsui, INBICON (Danish) and Teck Guan.

Teck Guan’s plant breaks down EFB cellulose into sugars by enzymes, which are then fermented by yeast into industrial ethanol.

“So rather than paying to have EFB removed and discarded or used for low-value applications, mills can earn money by converting ignored biomass into higher-value renewable fuels and chemicals, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

“This will also contribute to Malaysia’s aim of reducing carbon emissions intensity to the GDP by up to 40% by the year 2020 compared with the 2005 level,” he said during his visit there where he was briefed by Teck Guan executive chairman Datuk Hong Ngit Ming.

Palm Oil Mill Effluent from biomass is often left stagnant in ponds where massive amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 23 times greater than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere.

Therefore, Teck Guan has exploited the POME by using anaerobic digesters (AD) in tanks and harness the methane generated to fuel kilns at their brick factory.

Right now, SPOM is self-sufficient with regard to electricity generation and waste treatment. Teck Guan plans to further optimise and expand its biogas production facilities to supply up to 10 MW power through bio-gas engine to the grid.

“Teck Guan is exploiting palm oil mill biomass for financial and environmental benefits. A 60 tonne/hour mill like SPOM, can theoretically produce about 10 million liters of bio-ethanol from EFB per year.

“Typically a similar mill can generate 3 MW of electricity. If all 450 mills in Malaysia can produce the same amount, you can see the tremendous economic potential to the palm oil industry.

“Generation of renewable ‘clean and green’ fuels and energy also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, while replacing many million liters of diesel, which can be exported to earn FOREX” he added.

Dr Maximus however said there were challenges to exploiting palm oil mill biomass that needed to be addressed. This include the need for mill owners and operators to familiarise themselves with the technologies required to generate wealth from their biomass, banks and investors’ willingness to provide loans for green fuel and power ventures, connectivity to the grid to export the electricity generated and coming up with the most cost-effective technologies.

Thus, the ministry will study the proposal to establish a “green grid” that connects all palm oil mills, which in turn can be used to supply electricity to the local communities as well as the state or national grid.

Hong added that Teck Guan, an international oil palm plantation, palm oil mill, and oleochemical company, wants to demonstrate that technologies for profiting from biomass are now available.

He also thanked the government agencies, especially KeTTHA, for supporting the promotion of the green energy sector in Malaysia.