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Time:2009-01-06 03:26:49  Source:  Author:


Malaysia is amongst the world’s top producers of palm oil with the current planted area is expanding to around 4.0 million hectares. Success of palm oil industry in Malaysia is from the confluence of government and private sector strategies and policies. In spite of the huge production, the oil consists of only about 10% of the total biomass produced in the plantation. The remainder consists of huge amount of oil oil palm wastes such as oil palm shells, mesocarp fibers and empty fruit bunch (from the mills) and oil palm fronds and oil palm trunk (from the field during replanting).




Empty Fruit Bunch



At the palm oil mill, the sterilized fresh fruit bunches go through a threshing process to separate the fruit nuts. The emptied fruit bunch mainly consists of a main stalk (20 – 25%) and numerous spikelets (75 – 80%) with sharp spines at their tips. 

For the years of 2007 to 2020, it is projected that an average of 2.856 million tones (dry basis) of empty fruit bunches will be produced per year.  


The oil palm fronds are collected during prunint and replanting activities. The availability of fronds during the pruning activity was calculated using an estimate of 10.4 tonnes ha-1, which currently gives an average of 6.97 million tonnes per year. Meanwhile, it was estimated at an average of 54.43 million tonnes per year of oil palm fronds will be available during the replanting process in the years of 2007 – 2020.  

Oil Palm Fronds

Oil Palm Trunks



Oil palm tree normally passed their economic age, on an average after 25 years, and due to replanting. During replanting, the bole length of felled palm trunk is in the range of 7 m to 13 m, with a diameter of 45 cm to 65 cm, measured at breast height. The area due for replanting has to be multiplied with the average number of 134 palms ha-1, or in volume of 1.638 m3ha-1. About 53.87% (dry weight) of fiber bundles can be extracted from a trunk, with the remaining parts are the bark and parenchyma tissues which contribute to 14.45% and 31.68% of the dry weight of the trunk respectively.  


Oil palm biomass contains quite significant amount of organic nutrient, which
contributes to its fertilizer values (TABLE 1).

TABLE 1. Nutrient composition of oil palm biomass  

Basically, the oil palm biomass contains about 18 – 21% of lignin, and
65-80% of holocellulose (a-cellulose and hemicellulose), which are more
or less comparable with that of other wood or lignocellulosic materials
(TABLE 2). This makes the oil palm biomass is also suitable as a raw
material for the production of pulp and paper, composites, carbon
products and chemicals extraction. 
TABLE 2.  Proximate analysis of biomass of oil palm biomass (%, dry weight)


1.    Medium Density Fiberboard 

Malaysia is one of the top five exporters of MDF in the world. Our total
production capacity exceeds one million cubic meters per year. Presently,
most of the major producers use rubberwoods as the raw material. With
the decline in the price of latex, interest in rubber is only about 1.2 to 1.4
million hectares, which is approximately half of its original size slightly
over a decade ago. As such, it is envisaged that the supply of
rubberwood for MDF production would not be sufficient to cater for the
huge demand. The oil palm biomass has been tested in the laboratory
and pilot scale at MPOB and else where to be suitable as
substitutes for rubberwood as raw materials for MDF production.

The manufacturing of MDF from oil palm biomass includes chipping
process, refining and gluing, forming, prepress and hot pressing
(FIGURE 1). Oil palm MDF can be manufactured to pass any
standard including the Malaysia Standard and JIS or ASTM. In most
cases, the dimensional stability is poor due to high absorption of
moisture. As such, a special glue formulation may deem-necessary to
overcome the problem. Inclusion of hydrophilic substance may also
decrease water absorption to certain extent.






FIGURE 1. Flow chart of the MDF manufacturing and samples of MDF
from oil palm biomass

2.   Plywood 

A study was made to manufacture oil palm plywood consisting of 100% oil
palm for the core, and the tropical hardwood for face and back veneer. Oil
palm trunks used for manufacturing plywood were collected during replanting.
Specific cutter gap and rotation during the peeling process are vital for
processing the oil palm trunk, due to its inconsistence of vascular bundles
arrangement. In general, the mechanical strength properties of oil palm
trunk plywood meet the strength requirements as stipulated in the
Japanese Standard Method (JAS 233:2003).

Plywood from oil palm trunk 

3.   Particleboard  

Manufacturing of flat particleboard from oil palm biomass was envisaged a
long time ago and the research started over 20 years ago with a few
companies attempted to manufacture particleboard especially from EFB.
Such end products are school and office desks and chairs, table tops and

The specialty of the flat particleboard produced from EFB using this process
is that it has high screw withdrawal strength that is essential for the
manufacture of quality furniture.

4.   Oil Palm Lumber  

Oil palm trunk (OPT) because of its inherent properties has to be specially
treated and processed in order to make into acceptable lumber. The oil
palm lumber has been successfully produced at the laboratory scale by
using new drying technology. Basically the technology only involves 3 days
of drying and another 3 days for conditioning of the OPT, much faster as
compared to the normal drying techniques which require 3 weeks to 3
months to dry the wood.

5.   Automotive Part Composite 

The utilization of oil palm fibre as filler for fibre-reinforced composites is
now technically feasible. MPOB has developed a series of technologies
on manufacturing thermo-formable plastic composites for car components
such as bumpers, trimmings, rear parcel shell, spare wheel cover and
splash shield.

The process basically involves the forming by molding either through
compression or extrusion process. The oil palm materials are ground to
a fine state in a reduction mill before mixing with plastic and additives in
a compounding process to produce plastic pellets (FIGURE 2).

FIGURE 2. The flow chart of manufacturing of oil palm fiber
thermo-formable plastic composite and sample products



6.   Oil Palm Heart

Palm heart has become an exotic mass product mainly used as salad
ingredient especially in
Europe. Normally, in our country, the source of oil
palm heart is from coconut tree, but now we are going to introduce our oil
palm heart, which can be collected during replanting of oil palm tree. Oil
palm hearts are slender, ivory-colored, delicately flavored and quite
expensive and normally can be recovered at around 12 – 15 kg.

A technology on mechanizing the extraction of the oil palm hearts had been
developed, which consist of a mobile tractor system and attached with an

 7.   Activated carbon and advanced carbon products  

Oil palm biomass contain about 40-45% (wet basis) of carbon content,
which is suitable to be used for the preparation of carbon products. The
R&D for the preparation of advanced carbon products from oil palm
empty fruit bunch (EFB) had been embarked since 2003, and with
recent technology, MPOB successfully developed a process on
preparation of carbon pre-cursors for the production of carbon
electrode , electrical carbon brushes and molecular sieve carbon
(MSC) for gas filtration from EFB. Chemical treatment, carbonization
and physical activation processes were applied to the carbon pre-cursors
for the preparation of high porosity activated carbon powder and carbon
pellets (FIGURE 3).


Density =   0.95 - 1.30 g /cm3

Porosity surface area (SBET) =   680 - 1123 m2/g

Micropore surface area (SMICRO) =  360 - 1016 m2/g

FIGURE 3. High porosity carbon powder and carbon pellets from EFB and the
porosity characteristics.


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