Tuesday, July 14

Oil palm biomass research to be ready next month

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TAWAU: The comprehensive research on viable renewable energy, using oil palm biomass and palm oil mill effluent, currently being undertaken by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, will be ready in a month, Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said.“The research is on-going. We will have the findings within a month. The research covers all aspects including economic viability, problems faced by parties involved and the actual number of oil palm mills which can generate biomass-based energy.

“I can truly say this is one industry which has a huge potential to generate 1,335 megawatts of energy if all the palm oil biomass produced in the country is maximised to the fullest,” Dompok told reporters after officiating a conference of the East Malaysia Planters Association here yesterday.

The conference themed, ‘Sustainable Growth For People, Planet and Profit’ is organised by EMPA and sponsored by Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd.

He said despite the industry’s vast potential, exorbitant start-up cost and capital outlay could pose challenges.

“One major issue to overcome will be the distant location of palm oil mills from Tenaga Nasional (TNB) and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB)’s transmission line grids.

“Besides, the tariff offered by power purchasers in this country is 21 sen for per kw/hour, which is too low, while the industry needs to fetch between 29 sen and 30 sen for per kw/hour to remain profitable,” Dompok added.

He said MPOB’s research would also address this problem and the findings would be handed over to the government for further action as the issue of palm oil biomass renewable energy also involved other ministries.

Dompok said palm oil mills nearer to TNB or SESB’s transmission grid can take off first while mills located far away may take longer to take off.

“It has to be carried out in stages. We might need two phases to implement the activities,” said Dompok, adding that the use of palm oil biomass as renewable energy can solve the government’s problem of ensuring adequate electricity supply in the country and Sabah.

“I wish to emphasise here that this is not the sole solution to the power supply problem in Sabah but it will complement the government’s effort to overcome the shortage.

“What’s more important is we will be able to clear palm oil estates (of the empty fruit bunches), and give a clean image to the industry.

Earlier, Dompok urged all 417 mills in the country to pursue the use of biomass and palm oil mill effluent in the production of renewal energy and organic fertiliser. He said the government had allocated RM1.5 billion under the Green Technology Fund which can be utilised by mills to produce bio-energy.

“This fund provides loans with a two per cent subsidy from the government for producers and users of green technology. In addition, the government provides a 60 per cent guarantee on the loan,” he added. — Bernama