Biofuel, Biorefinery, Feedstock, News Roundup

Malaysia palm activities updates

Hello from a hazy/cloudy Kuala Lumpur where the palm and lauric oils industry congregates for this year’s annual conference. This is my first time attending this event, where most of the presentations will start tomorrow. I will tweet some of them via @Dgreenblogger using #POC2014.

In the meantime, as I take my break in between meetings, here are some updates on bio-based chemicals and fuels activities in Malaysia.

I’ve previously reported about planned renewable chemicals capacity investments in Asia coming from France-based METabolic EXplorer, Glycos Biotechnologies, Verdezyne and Genomatica (among others). There are also several biorefineries that are being explored mostly concerning biofuels production using palm biomass.

Last year, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) announced that MyBiomass Sdn Bhd, a unit of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), plans to commence production of its industrial bio-refinery plant in Johor by end-2016 with a groundbreaking scheduled in the fourth quarter this year.

The biorefinery will have annual production capacity of 60 ktpa that will produce high-value green chemicals using palm biomass waste. The project will involve an investment of between MYR 300-400 million. Malaysia reportedly churns out around 80 million tons/year of biomass waste.

California-based NextFuels is also reportedly examining sites in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, for its initial pilot plant that will produce biofuels from palm waste.

The company has begun development of the pilot plant in the Netherlands and will ship it to the site in Southeast Asia in 2014. NextFuels will operate the pilot plant in conjunction with strategic partners in the coming year. After the demonstration run of the pilot plant, NextFuels will begin commercial development and deployment in the Southeast Asia region. NextFuels anticipates it will break ground on commercial-scale modules within two to three years.

NextFuels employs a technology called bio-liquefaction that transforms agricultural biomass to green energy. The underlying technology — originally developed by Shell Oil — will allow NextFuels and its partners to produce bio-based petroleum at commercial scale for $70 to $85 a barrel out of wet biomass.

Cool Planet Energy Systems reported last year that it has signed an agreement to explore the building of multiple commercial facilities in Malaysia. The plan is to begin construction on the first plant in 2014. Acritaz Greentech, a group of companies that bring biomass processing and biotechnology innovations to plantations, will work with Cool Planet to use biomass raw materials local to the region that include palm plantation waste products such as empty fruit bunches, wood, and bark waste to make renewable, cellulosic fuels for the Asian market.

Acritaz will work to commit $60 million to the first facility. The first commercial facility is planned to be located in the Malaysian state of Johor. Acritaz and Cool Planet will then work to build multiple facilities across Malaysia, with Acritaz purchasing proprietary equipment and consumables from Cool Planet in the construction and operation of the facilities.

As for the renewable chemicals investments, Glycos ¬†Biotechnologies is expected to start up its bio-based isoprene pilot project in Malaysia this year (more of this on Tecnon OrbiChem’s February Bio-Materials newsletter issue), while METabolic EXplorer is still assessing the feasibility of constructing a bio-propanediol project in Malaysia after finding out that its project has higher-than-expected budget.

Also, look for recent posts on palm oil sustainability such as BASF’s, Wilmar, Unilever, etc.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.

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