Biomass Energy Resources in Malaysia

Malaysia is gifted with conventional energy resources such as oil and gas as well as renewables like hydro, biomass and solar energy. Malaysia’s commercial demand for energy is projected to continue its upward trend, from 1,244 PetaJoule (PJ) in 2000 to an estimated 2,218 PJ in 2010. This consumption growth is mainly driven by industrialisation.

Taking into account the growing energy consumption and domestic energy supply constraints, Malaysia has set sustainable development and diversification of energy sources, as the economy’s main energy policy goals. The Five-Fuel Strategy recognises renewable energy resources as the economy’s fifth fuel after oil, coal, natural gas and hydro. Being a major agricultural commodity producer in the region Malaysia is well positioned amongst the ASEAN countries to promote the use of biomass as a renewable energy source.

Biomass feedstock has long been identified as a sustainable source of renewable energy particularly in countries where there is abundant agricultural activities. Malaysia has tremendous biomass and wood waste resources available for immediate exploitation. This energy potential of biomass wastes is yet to be exploited properly in the country.

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 this biomass to biofuel efficiently and economically.

 The main sources of biomass include:

  • Agricultural crops e.g. sugarcane, cassava, corn
  • Agricultural residues e.g. rice straw, cassava rhizome, corncobs
  • Woody biomass e.g. fast-growing trees, wood waste from wood mill, sawdust
  • Industrial wastes e.g. rice husks from rice mills, molasses and bagasse from sugar refineries, residues from palm oil mills
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Livestock manure

Palm Oil Biomass

Malaysia is the world’s leading exporter of palm oil, exporting more than 13.75 million tonnes of palm oil in 2007. The extraction of palm oil from palm fruits results in a large quantity of waste in the form of empty fruit bunches shells and fruit fibre. In 2004, more than 25 million tons of oil palm biomass was generated. Apart from palm biomass waste, two other products from this industry can mitigate climate change – palm biogas and biofuel. Processing crude palm oil generates a foul-smelling effluent that, when treated using anaerobic processes, releases biogas. The industry generated 42.7 million tonnes of effluent in 2007 which produced was 1,230 million m3 of biogas.

Rice Husk

Rice husk is another important agricultural biomass resource in Malaysia with very good energy potential for power cogeneration. An example of its attractive energy potential is biomass power plant in the state of Perlis which uses rice husk as the main source of fuel and generates 10 MW power to meet the requirements of 30,000 households.

Municipal Solid Wastes

The per capita generation of solid waste in Malaysia varies from 0.45 to 1.44kg/day depending on the economic status of an area. Malaysian solid wastes contain very high organic waste and consequently high moisture content and bulk density of above 200kg/m3. The high rate of population growth is the country has resulted in rapid increase in solid waste generation which is usually dumped in landfills.

Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of Cleantech Solutions, and an internationally-acclaimed blogger, journalist, consultant, advisor and ecopreneur. His areas of expertise includes waste management, renewable energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection, resource conservation and sustainable development.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on salman@cleantechloops.com.

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