InterviewMalaysia biomass strategy, a map for industry’s future

24 April 2013 04:58  [Source: ICIS news]

By Tracy Dang

Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO of federal agency Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp)CHICAGO (ICIS)--Malaysia is hoping to capitalise on the use of palm oil for high-value downstream activities in the bioenergy and biochemical industries after the country recently created a National Biomass Strategy for 2020, a federal agency executive said on Tuesday.

“We recognised that we have 5m ha of oil palm plantations, and we have byproducts of empty fruit bunches, trunks and fronds that contributes close to 100m tonnes/year of this material, and before this, we didn’t know what to do with the wasted materials,” said Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO of federal agency Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp).

BiotechCorp, an agency under the purview of Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), is entrusted to nurture and help biotechnology companies.

“We just basically dumped it back into the plantation, and we realised we could probably use it as a source of energy – as a source of cellulosic sugar – and make more biochemicals,” he said during an interview at the Bio International Convention in Chicago,Illinois.

Created in November by a collaboration of several organisations and government agencies, the National Biomass Strategy provides a blueprint that could generate an incremental Malaysian ringgit (MYR) 30bn ($9.8bn) in gross national income by 2020.

Opportunities range from the production and export of biomass pellets to the conversion of ligno-cellulosic biomass into sugars and the development of bio-based chemicals.

“It looks into how do we aggregate this material and how do we get a new business model and increase the wealth of this country by exploiting the biomass,” Kamal said.

“Now that the cost of fossil fuels is so much higher, we say now is the time that we should look into an alternative source for the chemical industry,” he added.

Currently, the country is in discussions with companies, particularly one from Korea, to identity a sugar-conversion technology and to determine the cost of implementing the process.

“Next year, we will have a demonstration facility,” Kamal said. “Right now, it is a milestone, and we will keep updating the strategy and updating it.”

The Bio International Convention runs through Thursday.

($1 = MYR3.05)

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By: Tracy Dang
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