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Report: Mitsui Engineering May Invest Up To RM290 Million In Cellulosic Bio-ethanol Plant; Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches as Feedstock

Bernama reports that Japan-based Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding may invest up to RM290 million (US$85 million) in a bio-ethanol plant in Malaysia, starting with a pilot plant for about RM40 million (US$11.7 million). The plant will use oil palm empty fruit bunches (EFB) as feedstock; oil palm EFB is lignocellulosic biomass.

Oil palm fresh fruit bunches are harvested at plantations; the fruits which contain oils are separated at oil mills, with large amounts of EFB remaining as waste. Traditionally, EFBs were incinerated, with the ash used for fertilizer.

A study published in the Journal of the Japan Institute of Energy by Yano et al. in 2009 concluded that the ethanol production potential from EFB in Malaysia ranges from 0.20 million kL to 0.48 million kL (53 to 127 million gallons US) per year, depending upon xylose utilization in the process.

A commercial plant will involve an investment of between RM200 million and RM250 million and it is expected to take two to three years to begin operation. Mitsui Engineering is also expected to tie up with one of Malaysia's top plantation companies.

Separately, Mitsui is participating in a consortium led by JA Zen-Noh (Japan Agricultural Cooperative Association) and others to test bio-ethanol manufacturing using high-yield rice plants.

A special feature of this process is that the fermentation residue can be highly concentrated to make animal feed easily, which causes no extra expense for liquid waste treatment.

Resources

  • Shinichi Yano, Katsuji Murakami, Shigeki Sawayama, Kenji Imou and Shinya Yokoyama (2009) Ethanol Production Potential from Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches in Southeast Asian Countries Considering Xylose Utilization. Journal of the Japan Institute of Energy Vol. 88, No. 10, pp. 923-926 doi: 10.3775/jie.88.923

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