THE palm oil mill is a vital component of the midstream processing sector in the palm oil production value chain.
There are 453 palm oil mills in operation throughout the country as of last month, ensuring a reliable and quality supply of palm oil to the global market.
The milling sector is governed by stringent regulations stipulated by the Department of Environment (DOE) and licensing regulations of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).
These include particulate emissions from palm oil biomass boilers, biogas emissions from palm oil mill effluent (POME) and POME final discharge of 20 parts per million of biological oxygen demand (BOD).
POME without proper treatment contains a high amount of BOD, chemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids and high pH (value), and has dark brownish colour. Under the DOE regulations, palm oil mills should treat POME to protect the environment.
MPOB has been developing technologies to treat POME so that it will not contribute to human health hazards and environmental pollution.
It has also successfully developed various technologies for midstream activities such as mill automation, continuous sterilisation, biomass utilisation and waste treatment.
At the annual “MPOB Transfer of Technology Seminar and Exhibition 2021” recently, MPOB unveiled its newly invented palm kernel shell activated carbon for wastewater treatment, a technology to treat POME.
The invention uses oil palm kernel shell from oil palm biomass.
MPOB’s researchers started designing the technology in 2019 and it was completed this year.
The invention is an integration of extended aeration with bio-filtration activated carbon for the adsorption of pollutants and colour in POME, or known as tertiary treatment.
In addition, the oil palm kernel shell biomass with high density, high carbon and low ash content shows suitable characteristics to be used as feedstock for activated carbon production.
Since it is abundantly produced in the palm oil mill, the production cost of this technology will be minimal. The prototype has been tested and proven effective.
In complementing this technology, MPOB has also developed a two-in-one carbonisation activation system to produce activated carbon with one sustainable system.
This design makes the feeding of the substrate and uploading of the activated carbon from the reactor easier than a conventional reactor.
This process could also reduce the production cost, energy and time without compromising on the yield and quality of the activated carbon produced, while at the same time doing away with the chemical agents.
This carbonisation activation system can be adopted by major palm oil industry players and government agencies and provides related business opportunities to the small and medium entrepreneurs.
The technology to treat POME also uses green technique for the final discharge treatment, whereby the production of activated carbon oil palm kernel shell uses the physical activation method, a biological treatment method that uses effective microbes in activated sludge process and physical chemical adsorption on the activated carbon treatment process.
In addition, the treated POME final discharge can be used as recycled water for the backwash of sand filtration, and the activated carbon and spent activated carbon can be reactivated or
used as organic fertiliser for plants.
This is because it contains beneficial nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
This technology is very sustainable in terms of economics, process and environment.
The writer is director-general of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board
Source : News Straits Times