Malaysia is stepping up in the production and usage of 2nd-generation biofuel. This will help the nation to achieve the 40% reduction of greenhouse gases emission by 2020. The process of producing the 2nd-generation fuel can be produced by converting biomass to liquid fuel via fast pyrolysis.
Unlike the current burning of empty fruit bunches in oil mill boilers, fast pyrolysis process rapidly, typically in few seconds, heats the biomass to temperatures between 300°C and 550°C at high pressure without any oxygen. The gases released by the burnt biomass enter a quench tower, where they are quickly cooled and recycled back to the reactor as fuel.
Fast pyrolysis is a simple, low-cost technology capable of processing a wide variety of feedstocks producing gases, bio-oil, bio-chemicals, and charcoal. A promising approach is the production of a bio-oil that can be used to power ethanol, biodiesel or other local industries facilities.
According to PM Koh, Lipochem Sdn Bhd managing director, “2nd-generation biofuel, like bio-oil, is more environmentally friendly than biodiesel or bio-ethanol. This is because bio-oil is derived from biomass and this circumvents the food versus fuel dilemma."
2nd-generation biofuels are a realistic alternative to fossil fuels. This is because bio-oil can be used to produce steam to push turbines for electricity generation. This is a valuable means of replacing depleting fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas.
“Bio-oil plants are the way forward as they are far more energy efficient and make the industry more carbon neutral,” Koh told Business Times at the 2013 Palm and Lauric Oils Conference and Exhibition.
Currently, Lipochem’s demo plant in Klang is capable of processing 5 tonnes of dry biomass a day. Koh said a 100-tonne plant will cost around RM30 million, and the investment could payback in around 3 years.
Koh said bio-oil has many of the advantages of petroleum fuels since it can be stored, pumped and transported. It is currently being combusted directly in boilers, gas turbines, and slow and medium speed diesels for steam and power plants.