Sunday, December 29, 2013

SEDA Malaysia: Palm Oil Mill Field Trip

I have blogged about a field trip by SEDA Malaysia to Fortune 11 Solar Farm in Sepang Selangor and as promised, I will write about Labu Palm Oil Mill in this blog post. The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) Palm Oil Mill Technology Center (POMTEC) is built in Labu, Negeri Sembilan using a grant provided by the government to spearhead research on all aspects of palm oil milling technology. As Malaysia forges ahead with its plan to become a fully developed nation, there is an increasing awareness on the need for palm oil mills to modernize. The day-to-day operation of this mill is managed by Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad, allowing MPOB to focus mainly on its efforts on research and development (R&D) area.
    To ensure a commercially viable operation, the mill incorporates proven technology with adequate space and other provisions to facilitate research. Many innovative and state-of-the-art features are incorporated into the initial design to make this mill the “model mill” for the palm oil industry in Malaysia. Here, we can see a clear example on how a corporate sector work hand in hand with MPOB to conduct research regarding the use of biomass and biogas in generating alternative electricity in Malaysia by making full use of abundance of resources in the country.
    POMTEC is built to provide a test pad for research and development of the cutting-edge technologies required for tomorrow’s palm oil mill. It helps demonstrates the application of new concepts and techniques in palm oil mills to cope with new problems and challenges in its operation. This mill also provides training facilities for palm oil mill personnel on all aspects of new and up-to-date palm oil milling technology. Before we do deeper into this matter, I would like to refresh your mind about biomass and biogas resources in producing renewable energy.
    Biomass on one hand is non-fossilized and bio-degradable organic material originating from indigenous plants, animals and microorganism that are obtained through its products, by-products, residues and waste from agriculture, industrial and municipal waste originating from Malaysia. Biogas, on the other hand is gas produced by anaerobic digestion or fermentation of indigenous organic matter under anaerobic conditions including manure, sewage sludge, municipal solid waste and biodegradable waste originating from Malaysia. In both cases, these waste materials are gathered from palm oil fields owned by Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad and they are gathered at this mill for further process. You can click this link if you want to review the terms mentioned in this blog post.
    Current research programs in POMTEC include trash removal, continuous sterilization, plant-wide automation, new boiler technology, phenolic pilot plant, empty fruit bunch processing plant, new effluent treatment technology and new environmentally-friendly clarification process. These programs are crucial in the R&D of the mill to ensure that the programs are applicable for other proposed mills in the country. The bloggers were very lucky on that day because we were given explanation regarding the operations of the mill by the officer in-charge. We were given a tour around the facility to witness by ourselves how the mill works and therefore we were clear about the electricity generation process.
    Ronser Bio-Tech Sdn. Bhd. signed a R&D Collaboration Agreement with Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) on 14th August 2009 to work towards a zero discharge treatment technology for palm oil mill effluent (POME). A plant called Green Technology Centre has been set up here as the research centre in Malaysia. Ronser is the world’s leading technology in POME treatment system, up to zero discharge because the biogas generated on the basis of 1 ton POME will generate up to 30 m cubic of biogas which can be used for boiler and generation of electricity. Besides, the organic sludge recovered contains potassium which is an important element in improving the soil condition. As a result, the sludge itself acts as a fertilizer to the soil for planting. For more information on Ronser Bio-Tech Sdn. Bhd. you can always visit their website at www.ronser.com.my.
    However, why is the rush with renewable energy resources in Malaysia when we can still depend on fossil fuels? Well, renewable energy and sustainable measures are important to the country because of depleting fossil fuel sources. Crude oil can last for about 11.8 years and natural gas can suffice up to another 39.4 years in Malaysia. The availability of energy is important in any country’s economy thus energy security is a very important issue which must be managed well. SEDA Malaysia is the implementer of Feed-in Tariff program for development of renewable energy in Malaysia. By joining this program, public and private sectors can join to produce electric at their homes or private buildings and sell it to Distribution Licensees (DLs) for a great price. But, how is that possible?
    Malaysia’s Feed-in Tariff system requires the Distribution Licensees (DLs) such as Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) to buy from renewable energy producers the electricity produced by them. SEDA Malaysia sets the FiT rates with approval from KeTTHA for the producers and it will pay for the renewable energy supplied to the electricity grid for a specific duration. By having access to the grid and setting a favorable price per unit of renewable energy, the FiT mechanism also ensures that renewable energy becomes a viable and sound long-term investment for companies industries and individuals. This can happen very easily if consumers are registered under SEDA Malaysia as one of the producers of renewable energy through solar panels, small hydro power, biomass and biogas at their homes or private lands.
    The Cabinet has also agreed for the 1% surcharge on consumers’ electricity bills that has been gazetted and collected from consumers. This 1% surcharge is needed to achieve the target capacity of renewable energy in the long run. As of 2013, 1% surcharge is still imposed on all electricity customers and domestic electricity consumers are only obliged to contribute if their monthly electricity consumption exceeds 300 kWh or RM 77 a month. This money is channeled into the Renewable Energy Fund and administered by SEDA Malaysia to pay the premium Feed-in Tariff rate to those producers who generate electricity at homes or in industrial companies. But as of January 2014, this tariff will increase by 0.6% to be 1.6 % for current electricity users. This increase will also affect the consumers in Sabah and Wilayah Persekutuan Sabah as they are charged with 1.6% of their electricity bills for the first time. Please refer to www.seda.gov.my for more news and information.
Alright, that is all for today and I will be back with more stories to share to all of you soon. Thank you for your time in reading this and hopefully I have given some sufficient information as a food for thought here. Hopefully we will all benefit for this increase of surcharge in the long run because we really need to move toward greener and alternative source of energy. Take care and God bless, and please use energy efficiently.

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