Title of project: PILOT PLANT PRODUCTION OF GREEN FUEL FROM PALM OIL BIOMASS USING SUPERCRITICAL WATER TECHNOLOGY
(i) Dr. Lee Keat Teong (Project Leader)
(ii) Dr. Ahmad Zuhairi Abdullah
(iii) Assoc. Prof. Dr. W.J.N. Fernando
(vi) Prof. Abdul Rahman Mohamed
(v) Prof. Subhash Bhatia
(Contact details of Dr. Lee Keat Teong is available to registered journalists from the link below)
Biomass feedstock has long been identified as a sustainable source of renewable energy particularly in countries where there is abundant agricultural activities. Being the world largest producer of palm oil, Malaysia generates a huge quantities of oil palm biomass. In the year 2004, it was estimated that more than 25 million tons of oil palm biomass were generated in the form of empty fruit bunch, shell and fibers. These biomass are potential source of renewable energy that has yet to be exploited efficiently. Intensive use of biomass as renewable energy source could reduce dependency on fossil fuels and significant advantage lies in reduction of net carbon dioxide emissions to atmosphere leading to less greenhouse effect. However, increased competitiveness will require advances in technologies for converting these biomass to biofuel efficiently and economically.
Lately, it was reported that a potential route to convert biomass to biofuel such as hydrogen (H2) and bio-oil (viscos liquid containing hydrogen, carbon and oxygen) is via supercritical fluid technology. A supercritical fluid is defined as a substance that is at conditions of temperature and pressure that are above its vapor-liquid critical point. At supercritical conditions, a fluid does not meet the definition of a liquid because it can’t be made to boil by decreasing the pressure at constant temperature. Also, it is not a vapor because cooling at constant pressure won’t cause it to condense. For instance, water is a supercritical fluid above 374C and 22 MPa. Supercritical fluids in general possess unique solvating and transport properties compared to liquids or gasses. Supercritical fluids can have liquid-like densities, gas-like diffusivities and compressibility that deviate greatly from ideal gas behavior. Under supercritical conditions, solid solubility often is enhanced greatly with respect to solubility in the gas or liquid solvent.
Recently supercritical water has gained its importance as a supercritical fluid. This is basically due to the ability of supercritical water to dissolve materials not normally soluble in liquid water or steam and also seems to promote some types of chemical reactions. These properties make supercritical water a very promising reaction medium for the conversion of biomass to various value-added biofuel products particularly hydrogen. It was reported by several researches that the yield of hydrogen from biomass using supercritical technology can reach up to 50 to 60% with a conversion above 90%. Apart from that, another advantage of this process is that the wet biomass can be directly used without any pre-treatment (drying). Other type of products identified are bio-oil, aldehydes, acids, furfurals and methane. However there is still limited research being carried out on these products.
Thus, the aim of this research is to develop a technology to convert palm oil biomass to green fuel using supercritical water technology.
1. Development of a technology to convert palm oil biomass to green fuel using supercritical water.
2. Efficient utilization of solid biomass (waste from the oil palm industries).
3. Conversion of a waste product (oil palm biomass) to a product that has a high commercial value (green fuel).