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Overview

Figure 1 : Overview of solid processing technologies for palm oil biomass.

Production of biofuel from biomass wastes has received considerable


attention worldwide amid the efforts to find alternative sustainable and
environmently-friendly energy resources. Among the sources of biomass,
palm oil industry is one promising source as it generates a huge quantity of
biomass residues which are currently underutilized. Despite the efforts
devoted to maximizing the utilization of biomass potentials in oil palm
plantations and mills, the progress is slow. This slow development is mainly
attributed to the remote location of palm oil plantations and mills making it
difficult to transport and distribute the products (electricity, biogas, and
biofuels) or the feedstock to produce biofuels from the plantation to the end-
user.
On the production technology, various processes have been developed
and evaluated in producing biofuels from palm oil and oil palm wastes. In
general, these technologies can be classified into liquid processing
technologies and solid processing technologies. The main issue with the
current biofuel production scenario from palm oil wastes is the high moisture
content limiting the energy conversion efficiency of thermochemical
methods. Should the moisture content be lowered (by an energy efficient
drying method), thermochemical methods such as pyrolysis/gasification can
be applied effectively. One issue in the utilization of pyrolysis/gasification
method is that these methods produce tars and other contaminants which
need to be removed.
Finally, with the current drop of oil price, it is difficult to justify the use
of biofuel solely based on the cost considerations. More specifically, it will be
difficult to design cost effective production routes for biofuels to contend the
current low prices of fossil fuels. Hence, more studies are required to:
(i) develop an efficient transport and distribution system to connect
plantation, biofuel plants, and end users,
(ii) design an efficient conversion method to produce biofuel which has
no or minimum impacts on the environment, and
(iii) implement the improvement gained from the LCA studies with the
main goal to develop cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and
profitable biofuel production from oil palm wastes.