Malaysia to explore renewable gas potential

The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry will explore the possibility of Peninsular Malaysia using renewable natural gas from biogas plants installed at palm oil mills.

On one hand, Peninsular Malaysia faces gas shortage and on the other, palm oil mills are encouraged to capture methane gas from palm oil mill effluent to reduce air pollution.

"It is an interesting suggestion that the pipelines that carry gas to facilities using the fuel be also used for methane gas generated from the palm oil industry," said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui.

"I will certainly explore this possibility," the minister replied via his blog at http://peterchin.my/ to questions recently posted by Business Times.

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, there are 417 palm oil mills in the country, of which 246 are in Peninsular Malaysia.

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), a major user of natural gas in the generation of power is receptive to the concept but stressed that it is important for the government to assess whether it is economically viable to generate the amount of gas needed by consumers.

"It has potential, Malaysia can consider this option but it must be economically viable. If palm oil millers can generate the kind of volume we need at affordable rates, it would be good for natural gas users like us," TNB president and chief executive officer Datuk Che Khalib Mohd Noh said in an interview when met in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Currently, the anaerobic digester tanks that turn agriculture waste like palm oil mill effluent and animal manure into renewable natural gas are first generation products. They now take about a month to generate a reasonable amount of gas. Scientists and engineers are working on a second generation equipment that could do this 10 times faster, or in just three days.

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