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Palm Oil Mill Effluent


PALM OIL MILL EFFLUENT
Palm oil mill effluent (POME) is the waste water discharged from the sterilization process, crude oil clarification process and
cracked mixture separation process. POME produced huge amount of methane gas from its anaerobic process and has 21 times
Global Warming Potential (GWP) compared to the other gasses. However it can be solved, if it can be utilized as fuel for power
generation and cogeneration. Notwithstanding the huge potential, existence of proven technologies and availability of knowledge
and incentives, biogas utilization is still in a very early stage in Malaysia.
Wastewater treatment facility is amongst the most important component in the palm oil mill system. This is because the facility is
to treatment palm oil mill effluent (POME) that is being generated in large volume during the production of crude palm oil (CPO).
Due to the chemical and physical properties of POME, the most efficient system used in the initial stage of the wastewater plant
is the anaerobic treatment. The current systems meet the requirement of the palm oil mill operators to safely discharge the
treated POME. However, the systems release one of the green house gases (GHG), CH4 into the atmosphere as the
by-products of anaerobic digestion of POME.

BIOGAS/METHANE RECOVERY AND POWER GENERATION


Biogas with Methane (CH4) as major gas fraction from the POME could be recovered in the POME treatment facility by changing
the anaerobic lagoons to closed/covered digesting ponds or sealed digesting tanks as shown in Figure below. Electric power
therefore is generated via the combustion of the CH4 in the gas turbine. Power generated then is supplied to Sarawak Energy.
The overall power generation potential from effluent treatment can be estimated based on the calculated methane yield from
anaerobic POME treatment. According to Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB), 0.65 m3 POME is generated from every processed
ton of fresh fruit bunch.

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Figure: Proposed biogas recovery and power generation

In the following Figure, the composition of biogas from POME has been determined as 62.5 % methane, 37 % Carbon dioxide
and 1,500-3,000 vppm hydrogen sulphide. The calorific value for the generated biogas is 22,000 kJ/m3. The heating value
(average caloric value) of methane was 36.3 MJ m3 at standard conditions (Matteson and Jenkins, 2005). This corresponds to
10.888 kWh of energy per 1 m3 of methane.

Figure: Schematic diagram of methane recovery from POME


Based on annual production of 9,288,000 tons of FFB process in Sarawak; resulting in an annual effluent generation of
6,037,200 m3 and therefore 150,930,000 m3 of biogas could be harnessed. Assuming that the effluent is treated properly under
anaerobic conditions, the total methane production amounted to 94,000,000 m3. The calorific value of methane is stated as
10kWh/m3. The annual energy content of the generated methane gas can be calculated to 940 GWh (~108 MW).
Based on a conversion efficiency of 38 % (gas engine), the potential annual electrical power generation would be 360 GWh.
Assuming 100 % availability of the conversion system shall results in an installed power generation capacity of 41 MW from
POME derived methane gas. This is summarized in Table below.

Parameters

Value

Unit

FFB

9,288,000

ton/year

POME yield

6,037,200

m3/ton-FFB

Biogas yield from POME

25

m3-biogas/m3-POME

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CH4 gas fraction in biogas

0.625

m3-CH4/m3-biogas

CH4 emitted

0.94E+08

m3

Electricity equivalent (38 % eff)

3.6E+08 or (41)

kWh or (MW)

Table: Parameters for estimating CH4 from POME

In spite the substantial potential for biogas utilization in Malaysia especially in palm oil industry, only very few operation biogas
utilization applications could be identified in Peninsula Malaysia. Deployment of biogas technology such as anaerobic biogas
reactor would furthermore lead to a drastic reduction of GHG emission and also could bring a profitable energy business in the
future. There are possibilities to harness this bio-methane from POME for generating Green electricity from fuel cell in the
future fuel cell applications.

PALM OIL MILL EFFLUENT (POME) - PALM OIL BIOGAS (POB) POWER GENERATION AND
COGENERATION TECHNOLOGIES
Since the palm oil mills have abundant biomass waste resources, their energy systems were designed to be cheap rather than
efficient. Most of the existing biomass combustion systems in Malaysia utilize low efficiency low-pressure boilers. The average
conversion efficiencies in process steam and electricity generation are 35 % and 3 %, respectively. The average overall
cogeneration efficiency is 38 %. An additional source of energy in palm oil mills is the biogas produced in the anaerobic
decomposition (for wastewater treatment purposes) of POME. Presently, POME-derived biogas is not recovered and used. This
CH4 rich (65 %) gas is allowed to dissipate freely into the atmosphere.
Commercially proven technologies are available in the international market for efficient production of power and heat from major
biomass resources - bagasse, wood waste, palm oil waste, straw, and rice husk. The state-of-the-art modern technologies utilize
efficient high pressure boilers. Some of these boilers are capable of dual fuel burning, utilizing either liquid (e.g., diesel oil) or
gas (e.g., natural gas) fuel as supplementary energy source. Dual fired boilers will be used in palm oil waste-fired boilers to
facilitate the use of POME-derived biogas as supplementary fuel.
Local manufacturing capacity of efficient high-pressure steam generators in Malaysia is presently low. Most of the equipment for
a biomass-based power generation and CHP has to be imported, making the capital cost of a conventional biomass power plant
or CHP facility in the country high (typically around US$ 1,500/kW). Moreover, with the market potentials of biomass-based
power projects and a suitable government policy on power pricing, the local boiler industry could possibly take up the
manufacturing of high-pressure biomass boilers, when the market and demand for efficient biomass power technology takes off.
Technologies for the effective treatment and handling of POME have been applied in several palm oil mills in Malaysia. The
present systems typically involve the anaerobic decomposition of the organic components of POME and are sufficient to meet
the required final effluent BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) limits imposed by the government. As to the biogas produced
during POME treatment, there are no government regulations yet requiring palm oil mills to prevent its release to the
atmosphere.

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