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Together with the Agrotechnology & Food Services department of the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands a state of the art technology was developed to produce high grade cellulose out of the Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB). EFB is a waste product from the Palm oil plantation industry.
High grades of cellulose (dissolved pulp) are required in various industries from the building industry, paper but also in the clothing industry and biodegradable plastics manufacturing. The high quality dissolved pulp our process produces can be used for the clothing industry (Rayon) and the biodegradable plastics industry. With this development we not only add a significant improvement of the environmental footprint of a palm plantation but this will significantly improve the profitability of the palm plantation by adding a continuous flow of revenue producing cellulose. Besides producing cellulose pulp out of the EFB the process will generate additional by products like palm oil and lignineand hemicellulose.
The project basis was to develop an environmental friendly process technology using readily available feedstock to produce large quantities of cellulose pulp which will be in high demand due to the increasing world demand in biodegradable plastics. Presently cellulose is manufactured from wood / cotton etc. EFB has very limited applications. Presently EFB are mostly disposed and partly also used to fuel boilers in the palm oil plantation. Using EFB as fuel is considered inefficient due to the low caloric value of EFB.The general perception was that using EFB as feedstock for mass cellulose production would require a rather sophisticated process technology with the potential use of super critical extrusion and extraction processes. Our project has shown that EFB is very suitable for the production of cellulose (and in addition by-products like Palm oil and Lignine).
We have developed a basic biorefinery process technique allowing simplified mass production of cellulose pulp (dissolving cellulose, cellulose acetate). On laboratory scale we have already the cellulose production working with excellent results. The process design is considered relatively simple, allowing straight forward up-scaling to full scale production levels.
Patent application is filed and confirmation is received from the European Patent Organisation (EPO) confirming that we have indeed developed a new process technology. While we are finalizing all filings at the moment we already have patent protection.