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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.



Good idea.

They could do the same with corn plant, sugar cane residues and domestic/industrial/forest/agriculture wastes.


Once they get the sugar out gasify the rest. I am not sure that I am for biodiesel. They showed what was once rain forest and now rows of palm oil trees, that did not look bio friendly.

If you can synthesize diesel through gasification and F/T then that might be better. There was a story on here about diesel buses that ran ethanol. Even if you make SNG to run the diesels it might be better.


This makes sense for palm oil producers already established. The cellulose waste EFB becomes the source feedstock for ethanol and potentially syngas. Good use of waste matter. BUT as SJC points out, tearing down rainforest to plant palm for fuel purposes is not a sustainable practice.

Better to produce biodiesel from municipal waste, sewage sludge, or algae than from energy-farmed palm oil.

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more than half of malaysia's land is still covered with thick forest. try google map and you will see the difference.

I once read an article in which the forest area in England is only about 12-15%. Much of the land in England is used for plantation and yet no one makes a fuss about it.


Good point azmio. We can do it but not others. It is a question of 'do as we say, not what we do'. We know better etc.


The point is to learn from mistakes. If land can be used for food crops and temporary energy production - all the better. Redirecting waste to meet part of our fuel needs is better still.

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i did a study not a while ago with regard to the palm oil biomass; fruit bunches, trunk, fronds, shell, etc. The total weight is close to 100 million ton per year. Later, I plugged in the heating values published by the local researchers for each type of the biomass. What shocked me was that the fact that chemical energy per day from the biomass alone is much higher than 600,000 ton per day of crude oil equivalent.

Foreign investors should study the possibility of gassifying or pyrolyzing the biomass at the palm oil mill itself. If we dont do anything to the biomass, they will simply decay and emit lots of carbon dioxide. When this happen, not a kJ of the chemical energy can be used to benefit mankind. Unfortunately for us, this is what happening everyday.

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sorry it is not 600,000 ton per day but it should be 600,000 barrel per day


Makes excellent boutique spirits and wines too, but I guess that market is well catered for.
The English started deforestation 1,000 years ago and much of Europe's biodiversity is an archeological relic.

There are many thinkers in environmental science who would claim that restoration of a significant percentage of forested lands would go a long way to reducing greenhouse.
There are quoted figures in the order of 10 -20 more carbon banking in old growth forest soils.The soils are also much higher in carbon than the above ground parts.
The studied numbers are supportive to this view.

I think that some percentage biomass removal and processing is sensible but the palm plantations intended purpose is for bio diesel (oil).
There would be an expected economic harvest life for these plants of decades.


There are those that say you can not take the biomass off of the land, the land needs it. Studies have shown in general that you can take HALF of the biomass with no negative effects on the land. If you return the bio char back to the land, you can take even more.

Whether palm bundles, corn stalks and cobs, wheat straw, rice straw or forest waste, a lot of biomass can be made into fuel. I would rather do this than mine tar sands and continue the fossil fuel madness we have had for so long.

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there will be plenty of biochar once pyrolysis process take place. Considering that the pyrolyzer or gassifier is at the mill, the char can be returned to the plantation by the workers who bring in the biomass.

I have checked on the amount of N,P and K needed by the palm oil tree, as long as the trees have enough of these three elements, the trees will yields lots of fruits. These three elements can be supplied through natural or chemical fertilizer so there may not be a need to keep lots of biomass there.

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