Mitsui Engineering and palm oil producer Sime Darby to partner on cellulosic ethanol from palm oil Empty Fruit Bunches; Inbicon technology
Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding and Malaysia-based Sime Darby Research Sdn. Berhad (SDR) (the research and development division of Sime Darby [SD], the world’s leading palm oil producer), have agreed to build and to operate a demonstration plant to produce cellulosic ethanol from palm oil Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB).
MES has been developing original technology for second generation bioethanol production through the NEDO Joint Project, and entered into a license agreement for second generation biomass refinery technology (specifically hydrothermal pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis methods) with Inbicon of Denmark in February 2010, after a year of working cooperatively. (Earlier post.)
Inbicon uses a three-stage pretreatment process: mechanical, hydrothermal, and enzymatic treatment of biomass. The pre-treatment yields a much higher concentration of sugar in the liquid going to fermentation, according to the company, and the resulting beer or alcohol concentration is at least double the normal percentage in cellulosic ethanol processing. In other words, each batch has a less water and more ethanol, further increasing yield and efficiency.
Inbicon’s biomass refinery technology and MES’s original technology will be utilized in the demonstration plant. Inbicon has constructed the world’s largest demonstration plant for second generation bioethanol production from straw, which has been operated since November 2009.
The demonstration plant will be completed soon next to the SD Tennamaram Oil Mill, and will produce bioethanol with a processing capacity of 1.25 metric tons of EFB per day. This plant will also collect operation data to verify bioethanol production technologies and processes.
SD and MES, with the bioethanol pre-marketing support of Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (MBK), have been developing a new business scheme using EFB since 2008. Based on collected data from the demonstration plant, SD and MES are aiming to begin operating the commercial plant as soon as possible. (Bioethanol is assumed to be utilized as bioethanol blended gasoline and as a green material for the chemical industry.)
This project will be one of MES’s measures for dealing with global warming as well as a major business. MES is aiming to develop this project as a contribution to biofuel policy included in Malaysia’s New Economic Model, and also to Japan’s New National Energy Strategy and other energy policies.
Malaysia and Indonesia produce approximately 90% of the world’s palm oil, and their palm oil mills produce 40 million metric tons of EFBs annually in the form of residue. With such large and consistent amounts of biomass waste, the two countries are appropriate places to carry out bioethanol production, MES says.