Malaysia is working to develop new, cost-effective fuels based on palm oil, after prices of the commodity recently rose to record highs, an official said.
Benchmark crude palm oil futures hit an all-time high of 3,159 ringgit (US$962) per tonne last Thursday. The sharp rise in prices has neutralized the commodity's advantage as a cheap raw material for producing biofuels.
Chow Mee Chin, who heads the Malaysian Palm Oil Board's Energy and Environment Unit, said the board is trying to develop cheaper biofuels from alternative sources such as palm kernel cake, empty fruit bunches, palm fiber and palm shells.
"Prices are a manifestation of market forces, but [crude palm oil] is only one of seven raw materials available from oil palm plantations to make biofuels," Chow said in a recent interview.
Ninety-one licenses have been issued to companies in Malaysia for manufacturing palm diesel. Only five of the companies have started up biofuel processing, however, with one of them stopping operations recently due to the exorbitant cost of crude palm oil.
So far, palm-based fuels have mostly been made from methyl esters obtained from crude palm oil. But Chow said the Palm Oil Board has embarked on a research program to try to develop a second generation of environment-friendly fuels.
"Other than crude palm oil and palm kernel oil, the raw materials from oil palm trees are in the form of solids," she said.
Chow said that if these could be successfully processed into gaseous and liquid fuels, it would open up new alternatives to crude palm oil.
Even as solid fuels, they could be conventionally combusted in mills and used for heat generation in factories, Chow said.
She said that on an annual basis, the energy potential per hectare of all oil palm-based raw materials is equivalent to 45 barrels of petroleum-based crude oil.
Crude palm oil's use as a raw material for fuel is considered one of the reasons for global food inflation. The use of soy oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil and corn is also said to have contributed to higher food prices.
Analysts say the use of palm biomass to manufacture fuels could be a way to address these concerns.
"Tests are being conducted to look at the compatibility of converting these raw materials into next-generation fuels," Chow said.
MOVING ON UP: Taiwan improved in all four areas measured by the IMD, making its biggest leap, from 17th to sixth place, in economic performance Taiwan moved up three spots from last year to place eighth, its best performance since 2013, in the latest annual world competitiveness rankings, released yesterday by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). Innovation, digitalization, welfare benefits and social cohesion are critical to economic performance, with Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Singapore making up the top five on the list this year, the Switzerland-based institute said, after grading 64 countries and regions based on economic performance, infrastructure, and government and business efficiency. “Leading performers are characterized by varying degrees of investment in innovation, diversified economic activities and supportive public policy,” IMD
With the US opening up to travel, demand in Taiwan for US-bound flights has soared, pushing up ticket prices to most destinations in North America, tourism sources said. Fares for destinations in the US have risen dramatically since the middle of last month, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming months, as California on Tuesday lifted most social distancing and capacity limits put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19, ezTravel Co (易遊網) said in a statement yesterday. The travel agency forecast that the number of tickets sold this month is likely to be double or triple
‘MATTER OF SURVIVAL’: Vice Premier Liu He is to lead the development of ‘third-generation’ chips, a field not yet dominated by any nation or company Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is renewing his years-long push to achieve technology self-sufficiency by tapping a top deputy to shepherd a key initiative aimed at helping domestic chipmakers overcome US sanctions. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴), Xi’s economic czar whose sprawling portfolio spans trade to finance and technology, has been tapped to spearhead the development of so-called “third-generation” chip development and capabilities, and is leading the formulation of a series of financial and policy supports for the technology, people with knowledge of the matter said. It is a nascent field that relies on newer materials and gear beyond traditional silicon,
OPPORTUNITY: The company aims to sell its product soon, as enterovirus vaccines are not available anywhere but China, where firms are only marketing their vaccines locally Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp’s (高端疫苗) phase 3 clinical trials for an enterovirus 71 (EV71) vaccine completed the multi-regional, multi-central data “unblinding” yesterday, with the results, including safety, immunogenicity and efficacy, meeting its expectations. The company would compile a final analysis report as soon as possible, and apply for the new drug certificate from domestic and foreign drug authorities in the third quarter, Medigen said in a Taiwan Stock Exchange filing yesterday. Its phase 3 trials were conducted in Taiwan and Vietnam with 3,049 participants ranging from two months old to six years old, Medigen said. The company enrolled its first participant for