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Malaysia Must Invest In Oil Palm Biomass To Meet Global Drive Towards Green Economy

By Tuesday April 19th, 2011 No Comments

KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 (Bernama) — Malaysia must identify and invest in its specific role and leadership position in sustainable oil palm production to utilise the commodity through innovation and generate new wealth for the economy, a professor from a renowned Dutch technical research university said Tuesday.

Professor Dr. Ir. Luuk A.M. van der Wielen from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said by undertaking this specific role, Malaysia would also be able to absorb international technologies and investments.

In the process, the country would clearly be meeting its global responsibility and drive towards a green economy, Dr van der Wielen, a visiting professor at the Institute for Bioproduct Development of University Technology Malaysia, told Bernama in an e-mail interview.

He also said that with its leadership position in sustainable oil palm, Malaysia would have an excellent starting position for further innovation.

Responding to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s launch of selected projects under the New Wealth Creation and Ecosystem Initiatives, Malaysia 2021 and Beyond, including a oil palm biomass roadmap to Malaysia, he said the use of palm biomass would add further value and sustainability to a critical existing economic activity around palm oil.

Dr van der Wielen also said that it would create a win-win situation for all engaged in these activities, in palm oil as well as other industries, including workers in the expanding oil palm value chain as well as the environment.

However, he stressed that much learning could be done from, for instance, the Brazilian sugar industry with its different systems of harvesting, biomass processing as well as nutrient and carbon returns.

He cited how the oil palm biomass roadmap will help to further develop the Malaysian leadership position in oil palm while capitalising on international developments.

Dr van der Wielen, who is a director of BE-Basic, a public-private partnership that executes an innovation and research program, said the joint workshops have demonstrated substantial willingness for this so-called “open innovation” strategy, where targeted collaboration can make one plus one into three.

“Some companies have already experimented with co-cropping and bringing cattle and other livestock in plantations, but we are not aware of systematic studies to connect all that in an integral and large scale manner and understand the total macro-economic and ecological impact,” he said.

“There is no doubt that also more radical innovations can enter Malaysia’s research and development (R&D) system, the question is where does Malaysia invest itself and where does it benefit from the research euros and dollars spent already somewhere else?” he asked.

Dr Van der Wielen said the whole global range of biorefining and biomass conversion technologies such as biomass pretreatment and hydrolysis, separation, fermentation, chemical catalysis, as well as land management technologies are in principle available, but sometimes not yet explored and implemented by Malaysian players.

The oil palm biomass plan can capitalise on domestic and international technologies and help accelerate the innovation process in the palm sector, he said.

Asked on the impact in terms of cost of oil palm biomass technology, he said, the oil palm biomass roadmap will focus on developments that in the end will be economically viable and feasible.

He said a concurrent macro-economic impact study is important while creating the technology and innovation roadmap to help industry and academic partners guide and evaluate which technologies should be selected, which have cost reduction potential and which have realistic potential.

Amid such endeavours, he however said that high palm oil prices “would be a benefit and a threat.”

“They generate substantial income for today’s industry, who have limited resources to balance between familiar business-as-usual and more risky scenario’s that promise even higher revenues.

“Keeping the focus on single products, which is just palm oil is an economically risky position, palm oil prices can easily go down again,” he said.

As a result, diversification in product range is the way forward to create a more stable business model.

It is clear that accompanying measures such as developing logistic infrastructures, government as a lead market initiator and attracting foreign investments has to be considered as well, he said.

Sumber : Bernama

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