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High growth potential in biogas industry

WASTE-TO-ENERGY PROJECTS: Bioeconomy set to hit RM150b target by 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIAN Biotechnology Corp (Biotech Corp) targets Malaysia’s biogas industry to achieve RM20 billion in gross domestic product by 2020 from the current nascent state of a handful of biogas plants in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah supplying power to the national grid.

“We think Malaysia’s bioeconomy is able to achieve a target of RM150 billion by 2020 and the biogas sector should make up 15 per cent contribution at RM20 billion,” said Biotech Corp chief operating officer Razwin Sulairee Hasnan Termizi.

“We need to capitalise on our natural resources to value add on our bioeconomy initiatives. 

“Biotechnology works at the molecular genetic level in agriculture, healthcare, environment and industry,” he said after the opening of the 3rd Biogas Asia Pacific Forum, here, yesterday. 

Biotech Corp is the government agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation tasked to promote commercialisation of biotechnology projects. It sees biotechnology as the main driver of a bioeconomy.

At its simplest, a bioeconomy describes a future in which people use renewable resources for biofuel and bio-plastics. Instead of an economy dependent on the planet’s depleting fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal, one can convert agricultural by-products and livestock waste into electricity, fuels, plastics or even protein-packed animal feed. 

Nurturing a bioeconomy by leveraging on our natural resources, such as oil palm biomass, will ultimately propel Malaysia’s socio-economic position to greater heights.

Throughout Malaysia, plantation companies have started the ball rolling by capturing greenhouse gas emanating from mill sludge and turning it into clean energy by investing in biogas plants. These anaerobic digester tanks containing friendly bacteria feed on the organic matter to produce flammable gas and fertiliser.

This flammable gas called bio-methane can be compressed into tanks and fed into gas-powered taxis, public buses and even cooking gas in the kitchen. Alternatively, bio-methane can be fired into engines that generate electricity for Tenaga National Bhd’s national grid.

The benefits of waste-to-energy projects by plantation companies are extensive. Since mill sludge is converted into biogas and fertiliser, there is no chance of it entering rivers and polluting them. While the organic fertiliser is ploughed back into the fields, greenhouse gas extracted from the biogas plants is fed into a combined steam and power plant at the mill to generate electricity for the surrounding community in this estate.

Biogas operators which can supply big amounts of electricity are encouraged to hook up to the national grid. Those which are successful applicants with Sustainable Energy Development Authority are paid a basic 32sen per KWh, as stated in the feed-in tariffs.

Malaysia is targeting 500 biogas plants by 2020. This initiative is expected to generate about RM2.9 billion in gross national income and create 2,000 jobs by 2020.

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