Why palm oil biofuel simply cannot replace fossil fuel yet in Malaysia

Yiswaree Palansamy

Malaysians may soon have more palm oil derived biofuel in their petrol. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Is a future where our fossil fuel usage is replaced with 100 per cent biofuel made of palm oil possible?

While it may look promising given Malaysia’s status as the world number two in palm oil production, it may still an impossible feat to achieve, as explained by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive, Datuk Kalyana Sundaram.

In a recent interview with the Malay Mail, and when asked about the said possibility, Kalyana Sundaram pointed out that it is a hard vision to realise, as the nation’s palm oil production is simply not sufficient for biofuel.

“Two things you have to understand. We only produce 20 million tonnes of palm oil. The intention is not to use all the palm oil for biofuel. If you look at the world today, palm’s use is still on a global scale, is still 80 per cent for food, 20 per cent for non-food, including biofuel.

“Only in Europe is that equation flipped. In Europe today, 60 per cent of the palm oil imported, is used for fuel, 40 per cent is for food.

CEO of Malaysian Palm Oil Council Datuk Kalyana Sundaram speaks to Malay Mail during an interview. — Picture by Choo Choy May

“You can do it, but it’s going to be costly, and if you go 100 per cent, simple. We don’t have enough supply. Even our 20 million tonnes of palm oil will not be sufficient to meet the fuel requirements of this country,” Kalyana Sundaram told Malay Mail in a recent interview.

Biodiesel comes at a costlier production compared to petrol, he said, owing to the higher prices of edible oil of all sort.

He added that this was why the biofuel industry needs a government boost by way of an incentive or subsidy.

“A government-based incentive or a subsidy, in order for it to be put into renewable energy. In order to ascertain the so called carbon reduction and carbon emission, it comes at a cost, but governments all over, subsidise renewable energy. Malaysia is no different, so you need a subsidy element,” he said.

But Malaysians will soon have more palm oil derived biofuel in their petrol, Kalyana Sundaram said.

He explained that the components in the petrol now are currently made up of 90 per cent of methane and 10 per cent biofuel.

This would be raised later on to 20 per cent.

“By February you will see hear announcements being made. That means 20 per cent palm biodiesel added to 80 per cent fossil fuel,” he added.

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