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Taiwan's ITRI to help Malaysian company 'turn waste into gold'

2019/05/22 20:39:37

ACBT CEO Tony Peng (彭士豪)

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) A Malaysian bio-tech company on Wednesday signed an agreement with Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) on a pilot project to produce biofuels from mill waste.

The partnership with All Cosmos Bio-Tech Holding Co. Ltd. (ACBT) of Malaysia will also involve the transfer of ITRI sugar production and purification technologies.

Under the agreement, ACBT will build a pilot plant in Malaysia within a year and will later expand it into a "quasi-commercialize plant" with a processing capacity of 100,000 tons of empty fruit bunches (EFB) per year, ITRI Executive Vice President Chang Pei-zen (張培仁) said at the signing ceremony.

The plant will have the potential to yield estimated "green profits" of NT$3.38 billion (US$107.5 million) by 2022, Chang said.

ACBT will use EFB -- mill waste after oil pressing -- to produce biofuels, applying ITRI's award-winning technologies, he said.

According to the ITRI website, its methods involve dissolution of cellulosic biomass to obtain cellulosic sugar, which can be further converted into biofuels such as bioethanol and biobutanol via different processes.

Cellulosic sugar has various downstream uses and its quality and price are competitive compared to molasses, the website says.

Malaysia has an abundance of oil palm trees and usually disposes of its empty fruit bunches by burning.

With the use of ITRI technology, however, ACBT can "turn waste into gold," said ACBT CEO Tony Peng (彭士豪).

Malaysia can provide about 25 million tons of oil palm EFB, while Indonesia can supply about 60 million tons, he said, estimating the oil palm plantations in the two countries at about 5.6 million hectares and 15 million hectares, respectively.

Based on a test run carried out by ITRI and ACBT in 2017, it is estimated that 1 kilogram of oil palm EFB can produce 0.5 kilograms of sugar in the form of xylose and glucose at a cheaper cost compared to other methods, Peng said.

The market prices of xylose and glucose are about US$3,500 and US$350 per ton, respectively, he said.

(By Wei Shu and Emerson Lim)
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