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Malaysian Firm Taps Nypa Palms For Ethanol

The ethanol plant will be built in northern Perak state, where Pioneer Bio has also secured rights from the state government to extract ethanol from nypa trees growing wild in swamplands along the coastal area.
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) April 10, 2007
A Malaysian firm said Tuesday it has the potential to solve global warming issues and the world's energy woes by pioneering the production of ethanol from nypa palm trees as an alternative fuel source.

Pioneer Bio Industries Corporation officials said the company had already secured a five-year contract worth more than 66 billion dollars from a global trading firm to supply the nypa palm-based ethanol.

Pioneer Bio chairman Badrul Shah Mohamad Noor said the company was working closely with the Malaysian government's biofuel project and expected its first refinery to begin commercial production by the end of 2008.

"By 2020, ethanol will represent 30 percent of global energy. With the existing nypa palm that we have identified, we can produce enough ethanol for the requirements of the world," Badrul Shah told reporters.

Ethanol is produced commercially as a biofuel in Brazil and Europe, derived from other plant sources such as sugar cane, cassava, corn and sugar beet.

Studies by the company's scientists indicate the nypa palm is capable of producing up to 15,600 litres of ethanol per hectare, more than twice the yield of sugar cane.

Badrul Shah said Pioneer Bio would invest some 43.2 billion ringgit (12.53 billion dollars) to build 15 refineries in Malaysia, as well as an integrated township, which would include a port to export the ethanol produced.

"Our first plant will be ready by the end of 2008 and we aim to build the others within two years," Badrul Shah said, adding the refinery would have a capacity to produce 6.48 billion litres of ethanol per year.

The plant will be built in northern Perak state, where the company has also secured rights from the state government to extract ethanol from nypa trees growing wild in swamplands along the coastal area.

Pioneer Bio will pay the Perak state government 324 million ringgit a year to harvest the sap from 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of nypa palm trees.

Malaysia, a net crude oil exporter, is expanding its biofuel industries, mainly sourced from palm oil, as high prices for crude oil cause demand for alternative fuel sources to soar.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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