Thursday, August 22

Fretting over palm oil effluents will be over

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KOTA KINABALU: An inventor from Universiti Malaya has expressed confidence that his invention, the Biopro Diesel, is capable of helping palm oil mills to solve their environmental-related woes due to the discharge of palm oil mill effluents (POME).

Dr Ishenny Mohd Noor explained this in his talk entitled ‘Biopro diesel is clean technology with zero effluent discharge’ which was attended mainly by palm oil mill operators yesterday, said that with the new invention, palm oil mill operators need no longer worry about installing any ponding system to treat the effluents as it is the main ingredient that would be converted into Biopro Diesel.

The conversion will then create two by-products comprising RO water and Biopro fertilizers, he said.

Ishenny added with the new invention, POME would no longer be treated as a waste that pollutes but as another source of income.

There are currently 426 palm oil mills in East and Peninsular Malaysia, each producing an average of 405,000 litres or 172 million tons of POME daily.

“This is a very large amount of waste water pollutant being discharged into the environment … it is estimated that for every ton of crude palm oil produced, about 60 percent of POME is generated. The direct discharge of this effluent into rivers causes freshwater pollution and affects the downstream bio-diversity and human beings,” he said.

POME has already been identified as one of the major sources of aquatic pollution in Malaysia, while the palm oil industry is the biggest agro polluter in the country, he said.

“Every palm oil mill in the country is contributing to air and water pollution. And ageing and poor management of the palm oil mill creates more damage to the environment,” he said.

He stressed that the palm oil industry has been facing tremendous challenges to meet the increasingly stringent environmental regulations and over the past decades, several cost-effective treatment technologies comprising anaerobic, aerobic and facultative processes have been developed for the treatment of POME.

“More than 85 per cent of the palm oil mills use solely ponding systems due to their low costs. It has been reported that only a few mills are equipped with biogas recovery systems. The emissions of green house gases (GHG) comprising methane and carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have been regularly quoted as the source of air pollution from the oil mills,” he said.

He also went on to explain the major problems associated with POME.

“Long hydraulic retention time of POME can cause seepage of effluents into the underground water table. POME also produces high sludge and can cause soil pollution. The emission of GHG also leads to acid rains and the sudden surge of POME from the mills will go directly into the rivers. When this happens, the oxygen level in that river dwindles, resulting in death of the aquatic life,” he said.

Fortunately, the new innovation can help mills to not only solve the industry’s problem with regards to environmental pollution due to POME, but also helps it to create a super clean fuel and other by-products from the unwanted waste.

“This is the first technology in Malaysia whereby waste from POME is converted to very clean fuel and fertilizer and RO water by-products,” he said.

He explained that the oil produced dubbed the Biopro Diesel fuel was produced by converting waste POME using bioprocess technology.

“Biopro Diesel fuel is an attractive alternative to replace fossil fuel for any application. It can be applied in the transportation industry and used to power electricity generator. It offers clean technology with zero waste and its performance is beyond the requirement set by Euro2M and Euro 4M diesel standard. It is free of micro carbon residue, copper and sulphur,” he said.

Hence, if they were to apply the technology in the palm oil industry, the industry will no longer have to deal with POME waste, he said.

The Biopro Diesel fuel could be used on any vehicle and machinery utilising diesel fuel. Ishenny expressed hope to work together with mills to establish 10 Biopro plants in Sabah and Sarawak this year, adding that the cost of establishing one such plant is RM12 million, and that each plant is capable of producing 24,105 litres of Biopro Diesel daily, 121,500 liters of Biopro fertilizers daily and 263,250 liters of RO water daily.

For the establishment of the plant, a land of 2.5 hectares would be necessary, he said.

“It is a good opportunity for mill operators to come and form a cooperation with us … the Biopro Diesel is expected to yield RM9.72 million in gross sales in the first year of operation at 80 per cent capacity before running full fledged with an annual gross sale of RM14.46 million in the third year basing on the full capacity of 4.86 million litres per year or at 405,000 per month,” he said.

Additionally, the establishment of the plants at all palm oil mills in the country would add to the creation of 4,200 job opportunities.