Why palm biodiesel producers should keep pushing R&D and make palm oil biodiesel more environmentally friendly

ENGLAND and France last month announced that they would stop sales of internal combustion engine cars in 20 years. China also announced a similar policy with effect in 2050.

They want to reduce pollution and promote new energy for cars such as electricity and hydrogen.

The European Union is campaigning against palm bio-diesel and the European Parliament appears to be determined to ratify the Palm Oil and Deforestation of the Rainforests resolution that it passed on April 4.

It's in this environment that there should be increased research and development to promote palm bio-diesel not just as a sustainable "green" fuel from Roundtable producers of palm oil, but also as a fuel that lowers pollutants and particulate matter.

While it's a fact that biodiesel offers cleaner combustion, better lubricity and contains lower particulate matter (soot) than mineral diesel, there are also other challenges.

For instance, researchers (Jeeya Jeevahan: Various strategies for reducing Nox emissions of biodiesel fuel used in conventional diesel engines: A review), have discussed that bio-diesel produces more nitrogen oxide or NOx. This is one of the more carcinogenic pollutants in emissions from diesel engines.

Conversely, it's also true that palm biodiesel produces less NOx than say, canola oil and soy oil – two of the more popular biodiesels in Europe and the US.

There are two challenges to face:
Palm oil producers should intensify their joint-collaboration on research and development of palm bio-diesel. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's top two largest producer of palm oil and both of them already have a collaboration at the Ministerial level.

Now, they must bring it to the next level and jointly work in partnership with European engine makers and European R&D facilities to win greater acceptance of palm bio-diesel at the B7 level rather than stressing out on B10 level which is not acceptable to some European engine makers.

Malaysia's B10 policy effectively mandates the use of 10% palm biodiesel mixed into fossil diesel and is one of the measures the government has initiated to support the palm oil industry.

At the moment, all the land transport diesel sold has a 7% palm oil content and is called B7. The government is looking at increasing the blend to B10 this year largely as a price support measure for farmers.

In Indonesia, the government has taken an aggressive approach and is now adopting a B20 policy.

About 80% of global energy comes from burning fossil fuels and 13.8% of the world's primary energy supply comes from renewable energy.

Liquid biofuels constitute only 4.1% in the renewable energy portion and grew at 10.4% from 1990 to 2014 compared with solar photovoltaic at 46.2%.

Malaysia's exports of palm oil and palm products notched RM10.2 billion last year, equal to 15% of total exports.

The European Parliament's resolution essentially calls for the phasing out of palm oil from the EU's biofuels programme by 2020.