Yayasan Sime Darby funds lab for microalgae research to lower carbon emissions at palm oil mills

[Malaysia] Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), with support from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), has established a carbon capture laboratory which is currently researching the use of microalgae to treat palm oil mill effluents (POME).

The facility, located at UKM, was established under the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development: Zero Waste Technology for Palm Oil Industry. YSD provided a RM15 million endowment in 2010 to find innovative zero-waste solutions for the palm oil industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

YSD Governing Council Member Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Wan Noordin, who launched the carbon capture facility at UKM recently said the research conducted at the carbon capture laboratory uses microalgae to trap carbon dioxide released by POME and also convert the waste to usable solutions for income generation.

Currently, palm oil mills channel its waste into ponds for treatment. However, greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide emitted during the treatment process is allowed to dissipate to the atmosphere.

Repeated experiments at UKM’s carbon capture laboratory have shown that up to 99% of carbon dioxide contained in POME can be successfully captured by local strains of microalgae.

‘If application of this research is proven to be successful, it could change the way the palm oil industry handles its waste with a method that is not only more efficient and sustainable with lower greenhouse gas emissions but also able to generate wealth,’ he said.
The microalgae that is grown in the treatment of POME can be harvested and utilised as a feedstock for various valuable products ranging from animal feed and fertilisers to feedstock for biofuel production.

The UKM team has also filed an intellectual property (IP) application for the integrated POME treatment and carbon dioxide capture using local microalgae strains.

Tan Sri Wan Zahid also said Yayasan Sime Darby has allocated 17 out of 67 YSD scholarships offered under its Environment pillar to students to pursue postgraduate studies in UKM.


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