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Engineering & Processing

How many palm oil mills in the country have set up biogas plants?

Total of 57 palm oil mills in Malaysia have set up biogas facilities.

What is the risk of trapping biogas and the regulation on biogas safety?

Currently, Malaysia has no regulations on biogas project/plant/operation. However, there are certain guidelines and requirements that are used to control the equipment related to biogas. The Factory Act Regulation has certain control guidelines on fuel storage i.e solid, liquid and gas. There are initiatives by SIRIM on standard operating procedures (SOP) on biogas harnessing concerning the safety and operational aspects for biogas.

Which fermentation system is better suited for conditions in Malaysia for biogas production; thermophilic or mesophilic?

Mesophilic digesters are widely used in Malaysia, based on local environmental conditions. POME characteristics and best condition for microbial to utilize the organic substrate. Besides, thermophilic fermentation requires more energy to maintain the temperature.

The Government has allocated funds for biogas projects. Why is it difficult for small companies to get support / loans from banks?

Banks need to be extremely cautious when approving loans. However, strong company profiles and support from the mills would pave the way for funding of biogas projects in palm oil mills.

What is the energy content of biogas and how much electricity can biogas generate?

Generally the energy content (CV) of biogas is 20000 kJ/m3 and the methane content varies from 55-65%. Depending on the efficiency of the gas engine, 1 m3 of biogas can produce around 1.5 Ė 2.5 kWh of electricity.

How much does it cost to build a biogas plant?

The cost of building a biogas plant depends on the biogas capturing technology and biogas utilization approach. A typical biogas plant for grid connection could cost as low as RM 9 million / MW installed. The cost will be lower if the electricity is used for internal purpose. The cost of a biogas plant for co-firing in biomass boiler is relatively low when compared to electricity generation. Covered lagoon capturing technology is cheaper than digester tank technology. A typical covered lagoon technology could cost as low as RM 3 - 4 million for 60 t/hr palm oil mill. The payback period of the project also depends on factors such as capturing technology and the utilization approach. The biogas co-firing plant may have a 2- 3 years payback period and a payback period of about 5-7 years for biogas plant with electricity generation.

What do millers do with the biogas in palm oil mills?

Biogas is mainly used in palm oil mills, for internal use as electricity; electricity generation for grid connection; for rural electrification and for burning in the biomass boilers for heat and power. Biogas also can be used solely used in a package boiler for steam generation but this is only applicable if the mills are located nearby or are integrated with the palm oil refinery complex.

Does biogas need pretreatment prior to its utilization?

Biogas pretreatment or cleaning depends on the type of biogas utilization. It is a mandatory requirement for biogas cleaning if the biogas is utilized as fuel in the gas engine. Chemicals or bio-scrubbers are used to remove the H2S for this purpose. However it is not necessary to pretreat biogas which is burnt directly in a biomass boiler or package boiler. If the H2S level in biogas is on the higher side, e.g 4000 ppm a simple water trap or water scrubber could be installed to reduce the H2S.

What are the other uses of biogas apart from its utilization for heating and power in mills and for grid connections?

Biogas can be upgraded to bio-methane by removing CO2. Upgraded biogas which has a content of about 98% of methane has similar characteristics as natural gas and can be bottled, compressed and used for vehicles, cooking gas as well as for industrial purposes.

What is the potential for the generation of electricity from palm oil mills?

A typical 60 t/hr palm oil mill can generate around 1.5 Ė 1.8 MW of electricity at more than 35% of gas engine efficiency.

How many biogas plants have been connected to the national grid?

Three (3) biogas plants have been connected to the national grid since the inception of SREP programme in May 2001. All these plants are located in Peninsular Malaysia with the total install capacity of 3.5 MW. The number of grid-connected biogas plants will increase due to the attractive tariff under Feed in Tariff (FiT) and a few plants are in the pipelines. Besides that, one biogas plant located in Tawau, Sabah has been connected to the local grid for settlers who live in the vicinity. This approach reduces the use of diesel for electricity generation in that area. Therefore, there is a huge potential for the biogas plant developer to supply it to the local community in rural areas especially in Sabah and Sarawak. This is only if the government allows the developer to supply the excess electricity from the biogas plants to this area under the rural-decentralized electrification programme.

How can a biogas plant be connected to the national grid?

All the applications for grid connection should be submitted to SEDA ( SEDA has introduced online applications for all renewable energy (RE) developers and the application is limited to the annual quota set by SEDA. The developers are advised to work closely with TNB, TNBES and TNBís approved or recognized consultants and contractors regarding the work procedures and guidelines for grid connection. This is to ensure the smooth sailing of the development of biogas plant and grid connection. Pre Power System Study (PSS) should be conducted prior to a firmís commitment for project development. Pre PSS will decide on the potential and cost of the project in terms of grid connections and the nearest sub-station of TNB as well as the power demand of the local area. Kindly contact SEDA, TNB and TNBES for more information on grid connected biogas plant projects.

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