Today Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the launch of the National Biomass Strategy at the BIO Malaysia Conference and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. One of the outcomes is setting up an international Oil Palm Biomass Center (OPBC). Through OPBC, Malaysia aims to create economic value and to reduce Green House Gas emissions.
The international BE-Basic consortium, coordinated by Delft University of Technology was taken as a model of good practice in setting up the centre. Setting up OPBC is one of the results of a Memorandum of Understanding between BE-Basic and the Malaysian government (Malaysian Innovation Agency; AIM) signed in April this year.
The OPBC business plan follows the outcome of the independent National Biomass Strategy of AIM and McKinsey and brings international partners and their investments together with Malaysian companies and academic institutes. It aims to develop the best routes for highly valued chemical products, such as biorenewable plastics.
The choices are backed by an intensive macro-economic study, carried out by BE-Basic and Wageningen University. Starting from internationally agreed criteria for sustainability, the Oil Palm Biomass Center (OPBC) also aims to integrate novel ways of nutrient recycling to improve soil quality and to overall increase the focus on sustainable practice.
"Sustainability is critical to the continued success of our business and to the environment and society we live in, we owe it to our future generation to take this as a core value", says Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. Unilever takes this value to heart by ensuring that all their food ingredients and their packaging materials are made from sustainable sources.
The international biochemical company Purac is also interested in developing business in Malaysia. "We support the National Biomass Strategy and aim to develop raw materials for the production of lactic acid and lactides needed for the strongly growing market of bioplastics. It is essential that we take sustainability serious and the approach of OPBC has therefore our full support" says Rop Zoetemeyer, CTO of Purac.
Professor Ramlan Aziz of Universiti Teknologiki Malaysia (UTM) plays a central role in the establishment of the OPBC. "We aim to not only develop the technology to make new high value products from biomass, but we also develop new methods to recycle important nutrients to the soil, to improve soil quality." OPBC aims to reduce GHG emissions and contribute to more sustainable plantation practices. Rather than developing new land for more production, the focus is on increasing output from existing plantations by reducing plant infections and pollution from effluents. "Sustainability is a core value for us while we aim to collaborate in developing new ways to get value from biomass".