New  technologies add value to oil palm residues

Empty fruit bunches (EFB), mesocarp fibre and palm oil mill effluent (POME) are low value byproducts of palm oil production. Scientist from Wageningen University and Dutch industry work together in a project called Palmares to improve the circularity of palm production through innovation of biomass application. The research provides good news: the benefits from sales of EFB black pellets, mesocarp fibre and palm kernel shells are much greater that the costs involved to realize the new operation. 

Starting point of this study was the idea that the sustainability and circularity of the palm industry can be improved by using biomass conversion technologies to add value to the biomass produced. New technologies include efficient anaerobic digestion of palm oil mill effluent and the utilization of the biogas in a CHP (combined heat and power) unit or as transportation fuel. Empty fruit bunch can be washed, pressed and used in a CHP (combined heat and power) unit, or dried and converted into black pellets. These pellets can be sold as a renewable fuel replacing coal.

By using biogas or empty fruit bunch in the CHP unit, mesocarp and palm kernel shells can be saved and sold as renewable / high value fuels, or used for other applications. The study compared different alternative residue treatment and application options and assessed the overall sustainability effect on crude palm oil. 

The report provides an overview of the alternatives to a base case (business as usual). The report includes fertilizer needs, greenhouse gas emissions, estimated costs and revenues. In addition, it includes mass and energy balances as well as a list of assumptions.

Substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of the palm oil mill are possible in all five alternatives,
due to the use of methane as a fuel, to the sales of residues as fuel and to recycling of nutrients. The largest effect is prevention of emission of greenhouse
gases from lagoons. 

Read  the full report