UMS, University of Hull team up for joint study
Published on: Saturday, September 05, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Can a practical microwave technique turn the hated Pome (palm oil mill effluents) that pollutes many of Sabah's streams, into highly desirable biodiesel and bio-compost?To find out, researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah and University of Hull, UK, have teamed up to begin a joint multidisciplinary study entitled 'Enhancing Environmental Resilience and Energy Security by Developing Efficient Novel Methods for Converting Palm Oil Waste to Biodiesel and Fertilizers.'

Besides these two invaluable economic products sought, the project will also conduct a 'social investigation' on the acceptance of the technology by the palm oil industry, according to a press statement form Constance Chong, Research Officer with 'Sustainable Palm Oil Research, UMS.

Fund wise, the British Council has already awarded a grant via the Newton Fund.

The team of multidisciplinary experts from UMS include Associate Professor Dr Chong Kim Phin, Dr. Jidon Janaun, Dr. Abu Zahrim and Professor Dr Fadzilah Cooke.

The University Hull team comprises Professor Dr Stephanie Haywood, Dr SH Zein and Dr Pauline Deutz.

Pome is a by-product of palm oil production and the current practice is considered as negatively impacting the environment, according to the press statement.

Due to the high biological oxygen demand and other pollutants contained in the brown fluid post-palm oil production, dumping of Pome into river after treatment after 'treatment' reduces its negative impact.

However, there are problems with inefficiency of current treatment methods, compliance of mills and enforcement of regulations, the statement added.

There is therefore room for improvement with regards to treatment of Pome into products that have a less negative impact to the environment.

One of the ways in doing so, is the conversion of raw Pome into reusable biofuels and bio-compost.

In addition to that, adoption of the technology by the industry is an important aspect of any product development success, the statement continues.

The social investigation in the project will produce useful data for the development of the microwaves technique.

The cross breeding of disciplines and generous support of the British Government opens up fresh approaches and opportunities to solving an old problem with new technology.

Historically, angry protests from Malay villagers against severe pollution of rivers in West Malaysia in the late 60s and early 70s forced the Federal Government to draft Environmental Quality Act 1974.

The collaboration is expected to cast some light into the possibility of using a relatively practical technology, the microwave technique, to convert Pome into biodiesel and bio-compost and the results may mark the beginning of a good start towards a sustainable palm oil industry, the statement concluded.


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