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Current state and environmental impact assessment for utilizing oil palm empty fruit bunches for fuel, fiber and fertilizer – A case study of Malaysia

Chiew, Yoon Lin, Shimada, Sohei
Biomass and bioenergy 2013 v.51 pp. 109-124
Elaeis guineensis, biofuels, biomass, case studies, composting, electricity, energy requirements, environmental assessment, environmental impact, environmental performance, ethanol production, fertilizers, greenhouse gas emissions, heat, land use, life cycle assessment, medium density fiberboards, methane, methane production, palm oils, paper pulp, planning, primary energy, recycling, waste treatment, Malaysia
This paper describes the trend of utilizing oil palm residue, i.e. the empty fruit bunches (EFB) left after extraction of the palm oil, using a case study of Malaysia, which is one of the world's major palm oil producers, and discusses the environmental performance of recycling technologies being developed in Malaysia for fuel, fiber, and fertilizer. Seven technologies are analyzed: ethanol production, methane recovery, briquette production, biofuel for combined heat and power (CHP) plants, composting, medium density fiberboard (MDF) production, and pulp and paper production. The life cycle assessment (LCA) method is used to discuss the environmental impacts of these technologies for adding value to this biomass. Sensitivity analyses are conducted to determine the land use effects for the various technologies utilizing EFB and to estimate the energy generation potential of raw EFB in CHP plants and methane production. Among the technologies for energy production, CHP plants have the best performance if the electricity generated is connected to the national grid, with superior benefits in the majority of impact categories compared to briquette, methane, and ethanol production. Overall, we find that methane recovery and composting are more environmentally friendly than other technologies, as measured by reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Pulp and paper, and MDF production are favorable technologies for land use impacts; however, they have intense primary energy requirements, chemical use in the processes, and emissions from their waste treatment systems. Our results provide information for decision makers when planning for sustainable use of oil palm biomass.