The pure form of biodiesel, the B100 biodiesel (left) and the new B10 biodiesel. The new B10 is slated for availability this year to replace the B7.
B10 diesel being pumped into a bus.
Palm oil fruits.
MPOB principal research officer Dr Harrison Lau with various samples of palm oil biodiesel.
One kilogramme of palm oil produces 1kg of palm biodiesel.
Palm oil being harvested at a plantation.

Rudolf Diesel patented the diesel compression engine in the 1890s. He ran it on groundnut, or more commonly known as peanut oil. In essence, he ran the diesel engine on B100 diesel. Pure biodiesel contains no sulphur, has better lubrication properties and has a higher cetane number than petrochemical diesel. One kilogramme of palm oil produces 1kg of palm biodiesel.

Biodiesel is basically a substitute for normal diesel and can be blended to diesel in any proportion. However, it is blended into diesel in small amounts because there is a limit to the production of biodiesel. The world cannot produce enough biodiesel to meet global demand.

Malaysia currently accounts for 39 per cent of world palm oil production and 44 per cent of world exports. It is from this production that we produce biodiesel.

But, most of the crude palm oil we produce is for other industries, such as the food industry (cooking oil, margarines etc) and the cosmetics industry (soaps, washing powders etc). Palm oil for biodiesel production is only about 1 per cent of the total.

There are other alternatives to palm oil, such as rapeseed oil, soya bean oil, tallow and even used cooking oil. But, the real fact is only palm oil-based biodiesel has been approved by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), and it approves the palm oil-based biodiesel use on its vehicles up to a concentration of B20.

In addition, according to the National Biodiesel Board of America, as at 2015, vehicles using ASTM D6751 standard biodiesel have covered over 45 million miles of successful, trouble-free, real-world operation on B20 blends in a wide variety of engines, climates and applications.

In Malaysia, the leading light of biodiesel is the Malaysian Palm Oil Board. It has carried out extensive research and development on the production of biodiesel from palm oil since the 1982. The biodiesel produced by MPOB meets international biodiesel specifications, namely ASTM D6751 and EN 14214, as well as the aforementioned JAMA approval.

MPOB has eight plants producing biofuel blends in Malaysia — three in Johor, four in Selangor and one in Sarawak — as well as one in Korea, two in Thailand and even one in Colombia, effectively exporting our expertise overseas.

Since our National Biofuel Policy was launched in March 2006, we have progressed from a biodiesel blend of B5 diesel to a B7 blend in December 2014. The biodiesel is only available in the Euro2M diesel sold in all the petrol stations in Malaysia. And the new B10 is slated to be available this year to replace B7.

There are many benefits of biodiesel and the benefits are mostly to the environment. On the average, a diesel vehicle will produce 3.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Switching to biofuel will remove approximately 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Since the production of biofuel in Malaysia will consume 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes per year, it is removing the emissions of around 100,000 vehicles.

Biodiesel usage reduces acid rain, being almost (only 550 parts per million), and will reduce sulphur emissions by 350,000 tonnes per year. Biodiesel also burns more completely with much less smoke and soot than diesel, improving the air quality, especially in the urban areas.

MPOB principal research officer Dr Harrison Lau is fond of the fact that biodiesel is an environmentally-sustainable product, reducing carbon dioxide production and returning oxygen to the environment through the palm oil trees.

Technically, biodiesel is also superior to normal diesel. It has a higher lubricity, which means lower wear-and-tear for the vehicle’s engine. A diesel fuel that has a low sulphur content, such as Euro 5, will have less lubricity than biodiesel and will benefit from blending. Biodiesel burns more thoroughly than normal diesel, due to the fact that it contains oxygen.

This results in the blend having a high cetane number (cetane numbers indicates ease of combustion; a higher number is preferable). For example, Euro 2M diesel has a cetane number of 59.8, while B7 diesel is 62.4. The new B10 has a cetane number of 62.7.

The cleanliness of using biodiesel also extends to the fuel filters, diesel pumps and injector nozzles of diesel engines.

Extensive tests worldwide have shown that using biodiesel increases the lifespan of these components. And MPOB’s tests on a dynamometer, in the presence of the Road Transport Deparment, have shown that the power produced by B7 and B10 blends to be comparable and similar with normal fossil diesel fuels.

In conclusion, palm oil biodiesel is a clean, renewable fuel that can be used in all diesel vehicles. It produces no problems in the long term and even protects the engine better. Usage of biodiesel will reduce carbon emissions and is beneficial to the environment as it is a sustainable product.

According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development is defined as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Thus, MPOB believes that a sustainable palm oil production comprises legal, economically viable, environmentally appropriate, and socially beneficial management and operations.

The use of sustainable palm oil for the production of palm biodiesel will make the Malaysian palm biodiesel industry sustainable even though it comprises a small part of palm oil production.

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