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Study finds gasification of palm oil industry waste could yield hydrogen at about $2.11/kg

A study by a team at the University Putra Malaysia concluded that the gasification of empty fruit bunch (EFB), a waste of the palm oil industry, could, if scaled up, produce hydrogen at a supply cost of $2.11/kg ($0.18 Nm3). The US Department of Energy (DOE) 2015 cost target for hydrogen is $2.00-$3.00/kg (delivered, untaxed, 2005$), independent of the pathway used to produce and deliver hydrogen. (One kilogram of hydrogen contains approximately the same energy as one gallon of gasoline.)

A paper on the study is in press in the journal Energy Conversion and Management.

Feedstock particle size showed an influence on the upgrading of H2, CO and CH4 yields. The feedstock particle size of 0.3–0.5 mm, was found to obtain a higher H2 yield (33.93 vol.%), and higher LHV of gas product (15.26 MJ/m3). Equivalence ratio (ER) showed a significant influence on the upgrading of hydrogen production and product distribution. The optimum ER (0.25) was found to attain a higher H2 yield (27.31 vol.%) at 850 °C. Due to the low efficiency of bench scale gasification unit the system needs to be scaling-up. The cost analysis for scale-up EFB gasification unit showed that the hydrogen supply cost is RM 6.70/kg EFB ($2.11/kg = $0.18/Nm3).

—Mohammed et al.


  • M.A.A. Mohammed, A. Salmiaton, W.A.K.G. Wan Azlina, M.S. Mohammad Amran and A. Fakhru’l-Razi (2010) Air gasification of empty fruit bunch for hydrogen-rich gas production in a fluidized-bed reactor. Energy Conversion and Management doi: 10.1016/j.enconman.2010.10.023



Would this be close to cellulosic ethanol from palm waste?


They might have gone for H2 because it would sell for more than ethanol or methane. This is a good price point if you really need hydrogen.


If it takes 6 grams of hydrogen to make 1 mole (32 grams) of methanol from CO2, then 1 kg of hydrogen (500 moles) makes 83.3 moles or 2.67 kg of MeOH. That's 3.38 liters or roughly 9/10 of a gallon. Given that the energy content of MeOH is about half that of gasoline, it's not going to be competitive with petroleum by that route unless shipping is very expensive.

Maybe it can hydro-crack triglycerides to long-chain hydrocarbons and propane, yielding green diesel.


"the system needs to be scaling(ed)-up"

This is a good point, there is a scale where economies come into play. Small pilot plants may not tell the whole story. Since they use palm oil for biodiesel maybe they need the hydrogen for that process.

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