Expensive technology remains a challenge in biogas production
Despite being one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, Malaysia lags in biomass and biogas production.
Like any other renewable energy, biomass and biogas can further enhance Malaysia’s energy transition. A proper discussion on this issue is critical so that no resources are going to waste.
Clean Power New Energy 2021 held a discussion titled ‘Preventing green energy source going to waste’ to discuss significant efforts necessary to scale up the production of this untapped alternative source.
The session was moderated by Ir Nurul Huda Mat Nor, President of Malaysian Environmental Professional Practitioner Society (MEPS) and featured Datuk Khairuddin Tan Sri Mohd Hussin, Managing Director at Concord Green Energy, Dato Ir. Dr Ali Askar, Managing Director at Sher Engineering & Consultancy, Fabian Fernandez, Head of Engineering & Sustainability at United Malacca Berhad and Dr Surina Ismail, Group Head Sustainability at IOI Corporation Bhd.
According to Surina, circularity is essential in reducing the
corporation’s GHG emissions. In
dealing with climate change, she revealed that IOI Corporation looked into
circularity, environmentally-friendly technologies and natural biodiversity protection.
“Looking into circularity, the methane that is emitted from our palm oil mill effluent (POME) is something that we look at very strictly,” said Surina.
“We found that capturing methane from the POME is one of the best ways for us to reduce our GHG emissions.
“What we wanted to do was to utilise methane that we captured to run our mills and estates, and we have been relatively successful.”
High cost of technology
Surina shared the company started its methane capture or biogas system
three years ago. Still, it took some time for the company to calibrate the conversion of the methane to run its mills efficiently.
She then said the technology required to deal with the excess of IOI Corporation’s biogas was very expensive.
“For example, we could go into the grid or contribute to TNB. But the issue is cost,” Surina explained, adding the current method used by the corporation to extract biogas was not 100 per cent efficient, and feedback was required from other industries to make this project more efficient.
Fernandez agreed that cost was a significant challenge in this issue.
However, he opined: “Instead of talking about how we are going to manage this biogas, my question would be, why do you want to create the biogas in the first place? There is a technology to avoid it outright.”
In becoming a biogas developer, Khairuddin emphasised the importance of proper feasibility studies, suitable project partners and technologies. He also shared that the government had provided many incentives for biogas projects.
Having a fair share of experience working in SEDA Malaysia, Ali also shared that the government was open to discussing biogas development.
“You need to have the technology and the design out front. For example, I would say for biogas plants now, many of the technologies are already localised,” said Khairuddin..
“In that sense, over the last six to seven years, many of the biogas players in Malaysia have managed to localise a lot of the technology. Except for maybe one or two things we still have to buy from overseas because at the end of the day, you need to have reliability over the 21 years.
“You have to have friendly bankers that can support you because they will not give hundred per cent financing. Most probably, they’ll give maybe 70 to 80 per cent financing. The rest you have to invest on your own.”
Addressing the methane avoidance, Surina then said: “We have looked at methane avoidance. Methane avoidance might be sufficient for small mills with less than 30,000 tonnes.
“Bigger mills might be a little bit difficult. Because of the amount of EFB you have and the amount of POBE (palm oil bleaching extract) you generate, it is not viable.
“What I’m suggesting is that maybe there should be a mixture of methane avoidance for the smaller mills and methane capture for the more extensive mills.
“Otherwise, the amount of POME that you generate, the technology is not there for that kind of practice.” — @Green