On month day 2010, Sime Darby Research Sdn. Berhad (SDR) (the research and development division of Sime Darby [SD], the world’s leading palm oil producer) and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. (MES) have agreed to construct and operate the world’s first demonstration plant to produce bioethanol from waste products known as “empty fruit bunches” (EFB) resulting from the palm oil production process, as well as for the verification of bioethanol production technologies and processes.
Presently, environmental concerns including global warming have increased interest in the generation of renewable fuels. In consideration of these concerns, the development of biofuel derived from biological materials such as plants has been attempted all over the world. However, existing biofuel production from edible plants has brought about dilemmas regarding both food and fuel. The bioethanol production from EFB carried out by SD and MES is a type of second generation biofuel which is produced from non-edible cellulosic biomass.
The key factor for the commercialization of bioethanol production is the long-term, stable supply of feedstock that is low in cost and produced in large amounts throughout the year. 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. This means that these two countries are the most appropriate places to carry out bioethanol production. This project will also help effectively use such residue.
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.
MES has been developing original technology for second generation bioethanol production through the NEDO Joint Project, and has entered into a license agreement for second generation biomass refinery technology (especially hydro-thermal pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis methods) with Inbicon of Denmark in February 2010, after a year of working cooperatively. Inbicon’s biomass refinery technology and MES’s original technology will be utilized in the demonstration plant. Furthermore, Inbicon has constructed the world’s largest demonstration plant for second generation bioethanol production from straw, which has been operated since November 2009.
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.