A Japanese company plans to introduce a new source of bio-fuel to Malaysia, by utilizing the agricultural wastes of the oil palm industry, a newspaper report said Monday.
Felled oil palm trunks, empty fruit bunches, fibrous fruit wastes and kernel shells can be converted into bio-ethanol which is normally added to petrol to power vehicles, local English- language newspaper New Straits Times (NST) reported.
Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co. Ltd recently sent an investment team to visited Malaysia and is currently conducting a feasibility study scheduled to be completed within the next six months.
"If found feasible, we will build a pilot plant costing about 3 million U.S. dollars by networking with a local partner from the oil palm sector for the commercial production of bio-ethanol," the company's spokesman told the NST.
Mitsui plans to build a pilot plant in the next two years and commence testing and trial operation by 2010, said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, he noted, the development and commercial production of bio-fuel from oil palm in Malaysia have so far focused on bio- diesel which is suitable for diesel engines but not applicable to petrol-powered vehicles.
"When demand for bio-diesel sharply increases, the use of palm oil for bio-fuel could constitute a competition with its current use mainly in the food industry," he said.
The extraction of bio-ethanol from oil palm wastes can do away with such worries, said the spokesman, adding about 300 grams of ethanol can be produced from a kilogram of dry trunk fibres in the company's laboratory
In Malaysia, a huge quantity of felled old oil palm trunks are discarded during replanting.
With an economic life span of about 25 years, an annual replanting of 40,000 hectare is expected for every 1 million hectare of the oil palm estates, said the report.