Surprise Blessings from Climate Change – a turnaround for the image of and new opportunities for the Palm Oil industry

The new blessings of climate change for the palm oil industry.

Climate change is bringing new opportunities and benefits to the palm oil industry – strengthening the bottom line and nudging it towards a more positive image.

More often than not, climate change news is depressing. But one news is bringing cheer to the palm oil industry and the world at large. Climate change supporters continue to highlight the shortcomings about the practices of the palm oil industry but this has not deterred the world demand for CPO from growing. Ironically today it is the same “climate change” call, that has (surprisingly) turned the industry into a beacon of hope. Among a barrage of measures climate change is driving is for traditional fuels to be replaced, at least partially, by biofuels as a source of clean energy to reduce carbon emissions. And it is this growing world demand for clean energy via the use of biofuels that has today made the world realize that the palm oil industry is not all bad news.

Climate change proponents have conferred a new dimension upon the palm oil industry, that is, as a source of clean energy based on the following four attributes, namely:

  1. Highest oil yield per hectare of land use among oil crops.
  2. Highest amount of residual biomass yield delivered to the mill doorstep for processing and as such it saves on the need for, cost and carbon footprint of separately collecting and transporting the biomass.
  3. Turns on the spotlight on the oft-neglected aspects of energy usage and energy efficiency at palm oil mills.
  4. Has a potential to attain near-zero carbon footprint in the produced oil for supply as feedstock for biofuels besides as edible product.

The palm oil industry is capable of making a valuable contribution to offset GHG emissions by being a source of alternative fuel to fossil fuels. Of all the food crops that can be sourced for biofuels, palm oil stands heads and shoulders above the rest, outdoing the competition, for the four main reasons:

  1. Sheer volume of CPO. With 54 million tons in 2011, palm oil is the most widely produced vegetable oil worldwide. Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer and recently reached an output of 20 million tonnes per annum. More palm oil translates into more opportunity to forray into biofuels supply.
  2. Oil palm crop efficiency. As mentioned above, oil palm has the highest yield of any oil crop and is the cheapest vegetable oil to produce and refine. It is an efficient crop, yielding up to ten times more oil per hectare than soyabeans, rapeseed or sunflowers. On 5% of the world’s vegetable-oil farmland, it produces 38% of output, more than any of these other crops. Any substitute would need more land and land use change having a large impact on carbon emissions incur higher carbon footprint and negative climate change impact.
  3. Volume of palm biomass. The oil palm fruit is unique compared with other edible oils crops in producing a vast amount of biomass residue at the mill from mesocarp fibre to palm kernel shell to empty fruit bunches and biogas. The high crop yield per hectare further augments the residual biomass yield. In Malaysia, it is estimated that the oil palm industry generates about 80% of the available biomass in the country.
  4. Energy usage efficiency at the mill. A potential high efficiency energy usage at the mill could produce for export significantly large amount of surplus clean energy and biomass for use elsewhere thereby off setting the carbon emisions of palm oil production. A highly efficient low-emission cogeneration (combined heat and power, CHP) system using residual biomass at the mill will effect this. This would culminate in a reduction of the carbon footprint of palm products to near-zero with conducive upstream agricultural practices.

Recognition of the above has created new opportunities for market expansion and increased revenue for palm oil companies.

With the above plus points, palm oil products should be enjoying greater economic success. But in Malaysia, it has not taken off as well as it could. A lot of potential remains untapped, especially qualifying as low carbon biofuel to meet the biofuel quota mandate in the EU and US, which could boost the demand for made-in-Malaysia biofuels besides local demand for the same.

Malaysia has not yet successfully qualified for these reserved biofuel quota primarily because it is unable to comply with the qualifying conditions. In order to qualify, among other conditions, palm oil producers need to show that the carbon footprint (lifecycle analysis) of palm biofuel / biodiesel is at least 20% to 35% lower than that of fossil fuels they are meant to replace.

Given the present unqualifying carbon footprint of palm oil production, we could only compete in the open market in the EU and US based on price differential with fossil fuel.

The good news is that these potentials CAN be put within reach quite easily – because we are not that far off in the first place. For example, any biofuel used in diesel mixtures in Europe must offer a 35 percent carbon reduction according to life-cycle analysis, and palm biodiesel offers only 19 percent. Because of this regulation, we are at present unable to penetrate the European mandated market. This is indeed achievable using available innovative technology which has the potential to actually bring about a further reduction to more than 35%. The technology even has the potential to give 2nd generation biofuels a run for their money.

In the case of the US, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA has ruled that Malaysian palm oil biodiesel does not qualify for renewable fuel substitution market because palm biodiesel that replaces diesel fuel only would reduce lifecycle greenhouse-gas emissions by 17%. EPA requires at least a 20% reduction to qualify for its renewable fuel mandatory quota. This means in the case of the US, we need to qualify for a further mere 3% reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions.

Here is where our technology comes in. Considering that the process technology used in palm oil mills has evolved little in the last 70 years, the proposed innovative technology may be a small step for the mill but a giant leap – transforming it for the industry.

The technology proposed is relatively new but its adoption is practical with minimum disruption to palm oil mill operations.

With an investment payback period of 2-4 years and an IRR of 20%, it would certainly be worth exploring based on these economic parameters alone. But this technology offers more than just good economics, it offers a potential to reduce the carbon footprint of palm oil to the extent required to qualify for the, till now elusive, reserved and subsidised biofuel markets.

The larger palm oil companies have been pursuing sustainable practices in the agricultural aspects to reduce the carbon footprint of palm oil for some time, such as, opting to plant in degraded land, staying away from forests and peat soil. The next step is improving energy efficiency at the mills to optimise the clean energy potential of biomass residue.

Large palm oil companies like other big businesses know that to stay on top and ahead of the game they need to rely on innovation and continously improve the quality of the ‘service’ aspects of their business.

Some openly acknowledge on their websites that sustainability is a long term process and offer a willingness to partner with others towards this end, especially in those areas where niche expertise is not available within the company.

We would like to take up this offer. Our technology re-looks at some of the engineering practices in palm oil mills. Our vision is that in future all palm oil mills will be designed this way – energy efficient and making money not just from production of CPO but equally from savings in fuel oil, sale of surplus biomass and sale of heat and power (clean energy) to utilities and/or general industries. Indeed the proposed technology has the potential to transform the palm oil industry to go green beyond its wildest imaginings.

We are the last generation that can fight climate change. We have a duty to act.

Ban Ki-moon
Secretary General,
United Nations
12 January 2015

Palm Oil Mills, in the Perspective of National Resource Efficiency

 

Biomass Residue and Renewable Energy, Resource Efficiency at Palm Oil Mills

palm oil mill Apart from palm oil, biomass residue and the renewable energy derived therefrom are among two important products, sometimes overlooked, of palm oil mills in the oil palm industry. It is imperative that palm oil mills are recognised in the context of national resource efficiency for efficient utilisation of these products in order to maximise their contribution to the industry and national economy.

Despite the energy-efficient cogeneration technology currently employed at palm oil mills, most of the prime biomass residues at palm oil mills is presently consumed merely to provide heat and power to its processes. A truly energy-efficient design of a palm oil mill incorporating readily available innovative technologies can reduce its biomass residue consumption to less than half of the present consumption. The biomass thusly saved could be utilised elsewhere for useful purposes. In addition to large quantities of surplus prime biomass conserved at the mill for export, surplus electricity can be more efficiently generated within the mill for export to the grid, where grid access is available. Continue reading

National Policies on Renewable Energy Utilisation and Abatement of Global Warming

Malaysia’s Policies on Renewable Energy and Global Warming that Went Awry

sustainable energy

The Fifth-Fuel Policy under the Eight Malaysia Plan (2001- 2005) identified renewable energy sources as the fifth-fuel to be included into the national energy mix and more specifically, biomass residue from the palm oil mills as a major renewable energy resource. The policy pushed for optimising the use of renewable energy resources as a way to achieve maximum reduction of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. The fifth-fuel policy delved further to encourage co-generation as a suitable method to extract electricity and usable heat from biomass resources, mainly for in-house consumption. In this respect, the implementation of the policy faulted on two accounts:

  1. Firstly, by narrowly interpreting the policy direction as renewable for electricity generation the other important aspect, i.e. the simultaneous production of usable heat for in-house use was disregarded; and
  2. As a result of (1) above, standalone biomass-based power plants incinerating empty fruit bunches (EFB) remains from palm oil mills were promoted. This led to the second neglect, namely, prime biomass resource in the palm oil mills, which comprises mesocarp fibre and palm kernel shell that has tremendous renewable energy potential. The neglect of this prime biomass resource continues till today resulting in leaving their inherent renewable energy potential largely underutilised.

A downside to the two neglects mentioned above is that the standalone-small-scale-low-efficiency-electricity-only power plants burning empty fruit bunches, as forecast, demonstrated to be financially not viable and this unattractive economics continues to hamper biomass renewable energy development in Malaysia till today.
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Selection of Sterilizer Technology for Energy Efficient Operation of Palm Oil Mills

Sterilizer Technology Affects the Overall Energy Efficiency of Palm Oil Mills

The type of sterilizer technology utilised greatly affects steam and power consumption for, and efficiency of, the sterilization process. With the growing demand for energy efficiency at palm oil mills, the selection of sterilizer is based mainly on its relevance to steam and power consumption because this will influence the overall energy efficiency of the palm oil extraction process.

palm-oil-mill-energy-efficiency

The efficient use of energy at a palm oil mill is a major factor that reduces the carbon footprint of palm oil and impact on global warming trends and thus helps prevent climate changes. Utilizing biomass residues generated from the palm oil production process for its energy yield efficiently and productively further determines carbon emissions levels and the sustainability of palm oil production. Continue reading

Carbon Footprint of Palm Oil and the Palm Biodiesel Dilemma

There is more to Malaysian B5 biodiesel than meets the eye!

Believe it or not. Read on…

carbon-footprint

Palm Biodiesel Is Not Clean or Green! The Malaysian B5 Biodiesel program is set to release even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than petroleum diesel intensifying global warming. But, it need not be. Tech savvy solutions are already available to confront the Carbon Footprint of Palm Oil, a base feedstock for the Biodiesel, and preserve the environment against global warming effects but the will to adopt appears to be entirely wanting. Continue reading

Innovative Technologies and Sustainable Solutions to Overcome the World’s Biggest Challenges – Energy & Climate Change – at Your Palm Oil Mill

Your Local Solution to Curb Global Warming via Efficient Energy Use

pristine environment Energy is fundamental to the quality of our lives. We cannot conceive of development without supply of sustainable energy. But it is becoming increasingly clear that we need sources of energy that have no adverse impact on our environment. The prospect of irreversible climate change coupled with energy security issues necessitate an urgency to shift rapidly to low-carbon, efficient and environmentally-friendly energy systems, regardless of the industry involved.

In such energy systems, energy will come primarily from renewable resources, which are naturally replaced. Thus it is not surprising that the search for energy alternatives involving locally available and renewable resources is one of the main concerns of governments, scientists and business people worldwide. Usually, however, technological innovations are required to harness these renewable energy resources.

A case in point is the palm oil industry. The large palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia is unique in that it presents an abundance of biomass wastes, practically in its own backyard. Energy harnessed from biomass waste is considered ‘carbon neutral’, as the carbon dioxide released in combustion is assumed to be compensated by the CO2 absorbed during plant growth. While this biomass is a valuable renewable energy resource, its potential has yet to be harnessed fully.

The impediment to greater exploitation comes neither from a shortage of biomass nor a lack of recognition from the palm oil industry as to the value of its inherent renewable energy potential, but the fact that presently palm oil mills consume most of their biomass for their own energy use. Unfortunately, at the moment, most palm oil mills are extremely inefficient in their energy use, owing mainly to a lack of appropriate technology to optimise energy use utilising the readily available biomass. Thus innovation in technology to optimise the use of renewable energy in palm oil mills has long been wanting.

However, this scenario is about to change with the availability of game-changing innovative technologies to revolutionise and contribute to a significant increase in the production of clean energy from palm oil mill operations in the near future.

“These energy saving technologies will help palm oil mill operators acquire reliable and efficient systems, both in terms of – surplus electricity generation as well as biomass fuel release and at the same time, open up new economic opportunities. Some of the more important benefits these new technologies can accord mill operators include:

  • A significant decrease in the energy / fossil fuel use in palm oil mill operation;
  • Increased energy production from domestic biomass renewable resources;
  • Providing viable electricity and energy alternatives for the local industrial community for their sustainable operations, assisting them to go green as well; and
  • Curbing global warming.”

The technological innovations revolutionise the energy use in a palm oil mill by providing for the simultaneous energy efficient palm oil extraction processes at the palm oil mill coupled with a traditional, biomass fired steam boiler and back pressure steam turbine operating as a combined heat and power (CHP) plant but in an innovative and creative way. Reducing demand on electricity and heat for palm oil extraction processes are hence key elements of the strategy to increasing energy access by freeing up more renewable energy for use outside the palm oil mill.

What matters more than the cause of global warming is what can we do about it, in particular, what can business do about it?

environmentCorporate citizens are increasingly feeling a passion to do their share to abate global warming. A vision to address the present global concern on environmental protection and sustainable development is inspiring and spurring the business community on to being more innovative.

It is commendable that as a business community, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has stipulated in their Principles and Criteria since the year 2005 for palm oil mills to optimise the use of renewable energy as a sustainability criterion.

An Innovative Technological Breakthrough…

To all Palm Oil Mill Operators – exciting news!

Here it is –

A practical solution to global environment challenges and an improvement to the bottom line via innovative local engineering practices.

innovations

Drastic times call for drastic measures.

The time has come for mill operators to be on the lookout for anything that can improve life as we know it in traditional palm oil mills. ‘Business as Usual’ is not good enough anymore. It doesn’t have to be.

We are pleased to offer a viable, green and readily available innovation for your consideration.

Scepticism aside, we offer viable innovative solutions for your immediate adoption that will boost your public image and earn you money. In any case there is still the matter of having to comply with new and ever-changing benchmarks and trade-imposed requirements for palm oil thrust upon operators in the form of world-recognised sustainability standards for palm oil mill operators.

Adoption of our innovative solutions will contribute to economical consumption of energy and efficient harnessing of clean energy from biomass resources available at your palm oil mill! Really? How?

The answer lies in combining thinking-out-of-the-box engineering with innovation to deliver sustainable, workable, solutions. The technologies offered are something new which has not been available up to now.

With our technology, your mill will be able to take advantage of your unique access to abundant biomass and output clean energy for self use and export to other industries, reduce use of fossil fuel and curb global warming.

Yes, we are aware that many palm oil mills have taken the initiative to utilise some of their biomass. But our innovative technologies take optimization to use of renewable energy at palm oil mills up a notch to a whole, new level – unimaginable till now. The innovative technologies offer solutions to a number of optimization problems in energy saving that have not yet been addressed adequately.

The innovative technologies introduce several innovative processes where the temperatures of the palm oil extraction processes are optimised for energy savings together with improvement in process efficiency and product quality. The reduction in process energy use allows for less process steam consumption, which in turn allows for lower steam boiler capacity and lesser amount of biomass consumed by the boiler to supply the steam.

We avoid the operational challenges of condensing extraction steam turbine to generate more power while supplying process steam to the palm oil mill process. We recognise that besides higher capital expenditure, maintaining vacuum and cooling water circulation for a condensing turbine is difficult in a rural agricultural setting where the palm oil mills are located. Thus, the mill energy system is configured as an energy efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plant with a straight back pressure steam turbine supplying all its exit steam to mill process heating.

Just to what extent do the proposed innovative technologies offer sustainable solutions to your mill or company and the environment?

We will walkthrough the answer,

Let us take the case of the following scenario:

  • A 60-tonne per hour typical palm oil mill;
  • Processing about 400,000 tonnes of FFB per year; and
  • Using the proposed solutions with proven conventional biomass steam boiler and back-pressure steam turbine.

steam turbinebiomass

 

 

 

 

 

The technologies can offer:

    1. A generation of process steam & saving of 36,000 tonnes excess biomass for export, and
    2. A generation of 6 MW clean electricity & saving of 5 MW excess electricity for export.

And avoid the following:

    1. Condensing steam turbine and associated problem in maintaining vacuum,
    2. power consumption for cooling system,
    3. water usage for cooling system,
    4. capital and operating/maintenance costs of biogas engines,
    5. capital and operating costs of grid connection for biogas electricity export, and
    6. diesel engine running for weekend electricity supply

Note:

    1. Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB) as energy potential is not factored in, as it is customarily recycled into the fields as organic fertilizers.
    2. Biogas from the palm oil mill effluent treatment is fired in the mill steam boiler.
    3. The 36,000 tonnes of biomass fuel released for export can displace about 14 ktoe equivalent of fossil fuel oil for industrial heating or can be used for generating additional net 6 MW of clean electricity.
    4. The innovative solutions involve simple, cost effective and easy to implement proprietary technologies.

Your choice… Global warming or Global greening?

             From this          global warming        to this         global warming

 

…YOU have the power to choose…

The world needs you…

To make a move

“We are truly committed to building a sustainable future as demonstrated by our continued R&D efforts to continuously offer state-of-the-art technologies to generate reliable biomass-generated clean energy.”

“This relentless pursuit of renewable energy technology makes us a leading provider of reliable, economic, high efficiency renewable energy production solutions in the palm oil industry to make palm oil mill operations greener and make money in the process.”

It makes Economic Sense!

The proposed technologies yield an IRR of up to a whopping 20% on capital investment. This by itself makes it worthwhile to take a serious look at these technologies. Saving the planet can come later – the icing on the cake, so to speak. If you’re interested, drop us a line.

Picking the Low-Hanging Fruit of Energy Efficiency

Recovering Lost Energies in the Malaysian Utility Power Stations

Everyone in the know of renewable energy agrees that the best investment and what should be done first is energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit in the economy’s transition to less greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s look at it from the perspective of our Utility Power Stations. Continue reading

Renewable Energy Bill 2010 Misses the Mark by not setting Efficiency Standards for Harnessing Renewable Energy!

Datuk Peter ChinThe Renewable Energy Bill 2010 was introduced in Parliament by the Hon. Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water on 15 December 2010 for its first reading. This bill was drafted to become the stated regulatory framework to achieve the government’s Renewable Energy (RE) Policy vision, which is stated as “Enhancing the utilisation of indigenous renewable energy resources to contribute towards National electricity supply security and sustainable socio-economic development.” Continue reading

Optimising the Utilisation of Renewable Energy Resources in the Oil Palm Industry


Greenhouse Gas Emission Control is the Need of the Hour

greenhouse gas

Back in the 70’s there was a wave by countries to promote energy savings and energy efficiency driven by economic reasons following a hefty rise in oil prices. Today again there is another wave, and even more vigorous, but this time exerted by environmental considerations. The call is for sustainability, and more specifically to reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emission urgently to protect the world against climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emission also goes hand in hand with enhancing our energy security, i.e., reducing dependence on fossil fuel and diversifying energy resources.

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