Harnessing biogas in palm oil production
Biogas is a renewable energy that is produced from the breakdown of organic waste, and is a great way to ensure zero waste in palm oil production. GAR operates biogas plants to utilise the waste from our mills, producing energy which in turn, powers the mills.
So how does this circular economy work and how else does biogas benefit our palm oil production?
Turning waste into energy
Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) is a wastewater resulting from processing fresh fruit bunches to crude palm oil at the mills. Left untreated in the open, POME decomposes organically and this releases greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.
Traditionally, POME is applied in the field as fertiliser after being treated to lower its chemical oxygen demand and biological oxygen demand levels. Even so, a specific application permit is required for each location where this fertiliser is applied, and we monitor the environmental impact closely to ensure they are compliant with national regulations.
However, with a biogas plant, we can recycle POME into more useful end products. Mills pipe their POME into a bio-reactor, where bacteria digest the wastewater anaerobically, creating biogas (consisting largely of methane and carbon dioxide), and effluent.
The resulting biogas is used as energy, powering both the mill and biogas plant itself, and the effluent can then be used as fertiliser in the plantations.
Reducing greenhouse gases
When left uncontrolled in the open, POME does release a certain amount of greenhouse gas. With a biogas plant in place, what we are essentially doing is harnessing the methane and carbon dioxide (which are greenhouse gases) in a controlled environment, and utilising them as energy.
Being able to power the mill with biogas also reduces our diesel fuel consumption, lowering our GHG emissions at the mill.
Our seven biogas plants situated across Central Kalimantan, Jambi and Riau, have been proven to reduce GHG emissions in our operations. These facilities can reduce between 40–55 percent of operational emissions on site.
Edward Sipayong, Manager at our Libo Biogas Plant, shares his experience working there, and why the work here is important in our zero waste practices.