The Palm Trees Can Be Grown Biology Essay


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Lusciously, palm oil produced from a fern like plant called the oil palm tree. The oil extracted from the outer soft, fleshy portion of the fruit and palm kernel oil extracted from the inner seed portion of the palm tree fruit (Yap, 2008). In addition, palm oil has many beneficial properties where the extract is full of olefins, a potentially valuable chemical group that can be processed into many non-food products as well. Furthermore, the natural oil also has the largest slice of the world vegetable oil market of 28% (Yap, 2008).

Moreover, palm oil is a primary substitute for rapeseed oil in Europe, which is experiencing high levels of demand for bio-diesel fuel production purposes (Medlibrary, 2010). In addition, the palm tree fruit extract is the most productive energy crop the world has. One hectare of oil palm plantation has the capacity to produce nearly 6,000 liters of crude bio-diesel. In comparison, soybeans and corn generates only about 400 and 200 liters per hectare, respectively. Therefore, palm oil plantation is more profitable business than any other crops.

In 2008, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tons of palm oil on 4.5 million hectares of land (Medlibrary,2010). While Malaysia's palm oil production is less than Indonesia, it is still the largest exporter of palm oil in the world. About 60% of palm oil shipments from Malaysia head to China, the European Union, Pakistan, United States and India. They are mostly made into cooking oil, margarine, specialty fats, and oleo-chemicals.

The palm trees can be grown on sunny tropical region. Most plantation lands are cleared through administering the slash-and burn technique. Palm trees are very versatile and are the highest yielding oilseed crop. For fresh fruit yield, for every 10 tons of palm oil, about 1 tone of palm kernel oil can be obtained (Yap, 2008). The countries that produce the crudest palm oil are from Southeast Asia mainly Malaysia and Indonesia. Together, both countries account for about 80 % of the world's production.

Malaysia is the single largest producer with more than 50 percent of the world's production, while Indonesia follows with almost 30 percent of global production. Between 1960 and 2000, global palm oil production increased 10 fold from 2 million tons in 1960 to 24 million tons in 2000 (Thomson, 2008). As the largest producer and exporter of palm oil and palm oil products, Malaysia has an important role to play in fulfilling the growing global needs for oils and fats in general.

The world commercial marketing as Malaysia is the largest producer and exporter of palm oil. The chart distribution below shows the world's biggest exporter of palm oil, Malaysia accounted for 15.14 million tons (26.2%) of the global oils, and fats trade in 2007. In 2008, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tons of palm oil on 4.5 million hectares of land.

Figure 1.1 : World exporter of palm oil in 2007

(Oil World, 2008)

Malaysia recently began turning up its campaign to fight misinformation against palm oil production in a series of forums in the United States. Successfully, the government has pointed out the unfair calculation of carbon emissions for palm oil based on comparisons with carbon stocks of the pristine rain forests as the starting point (Salmy Hashim, 2009).

Moreover, palm oil is a natural raw material that can be used almost anywhere and thus one of the most popular agricultural commodities (Yap, 2008). The versatile oil has been used from washing liquids and soap to margarine and cosmetics production. Almost every consumables product contains palm oil. In the European countries, the crude palm is also a primary substitute for rapeseed oil (Rojas, 2007).

On the other hand, growing global demand for edible oils and animal proteins in the last decade or two had resulted in a tremendous increase in the areas under oil crops cultivation, particularly of soybean and oil palm. In the last six years, world production of soybean had increased 47% to satisfy the market for animal feed (soybean meal) and edible oils. Most of the increased production came from countries in South America.

In detail, the four main soybean growing countries comprising Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay recorded a 92% increase in production and 66% increase in planted area in the past six years. The current area under soybean cultivation is about 30 million hectares (AID Environment & Profundo, 2002).

Hence, world production of palm oil, the most widely traded edible oil, has also seen significant leaps in production and planted areas, production had almost doubled from 1990 to 2001, with Malaysia and Indonesia contributing to most of the increased production. This has been achieved mainly by opening a new land for oil palm plantations.

In Malaysia, the area planted with the crop had increased from 2.03 million hectares in 1990 to 3.50 million hectares in 2001, an increase of 172%. In Indonesia, 1.8 million hectares have been planted with oil palm from 1990 to 1999 (Wakker, 2000: cited in Teoh, 2002).

Consequently, the rapid expansion of both crops had resulted in the conversion of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) in South America, including parts of the Amazon and in South-East Asia. It has been estimated that about an average of 200,000 hectares of forestland had been converted annually from 1990 to 1999 in Indonesia, the actual rate varying from about 150,000 to more than 250,000 hectares per year (Wakker, 2000 cited in: Teoh, 2002).

In addition, as world production of palm oil and soy oil is expected to continue to increase at the current pace, there is a growing concern that this expansion would result in conversion of a large proportion of the remaining HCVFs in the tropics (Teoh, 2002). Several studies have been undertaken to gain a better understanding of the issues pertaining to forest conversion and the edible oils sector. This study focuses on the supply chain of the palm oil industry in Malaysia.

1.2 Palm Oil Production

In 2001, the world's production of palm oil was 23.18 million tones or 19.8% of the total production of 17 oils and fats, making it the second most important oil after soy oil. Palm oil has achieved impressive growth in production and exports in the last few decades; production had doubled from 1990 to 2001.

In terms of exports, palm oil is the most widely traded oil, accounting for 45.6% of the world's exports of 17 oils and fats in 2001 (, 2009) Malaysia is the largest producer of palm oil, contributing about 11.80 million tons or 50.9% of total production, while Indonesia produced about 7.5 million tons or 32.3%. Malaysia is also the world's largest exporter of palm oil, accounting for about 61.1% or 10.62 million tons of the total exports of 17.37 million tons in 2001.

Table 1.1 : World Production of Palm Oil ('000 tons)

Country of Origin






























Cote d'IVoire


















Papua New Guinea

















23182 (Oil World & MPOB, 2008)

Table 1.2: World Major Exporters of Palm Oil ('000 tons)

Country of Origin


















Papua New Guinea






Cote d'IVoire












Hong Kong


















(Oil World & MPOB, 2008)

World production of palm oil was projected to double from 2000 to 2020 with a total production exceeding 40 million tons. The main growth is expected from Indonesia, which could become the world's leading producer by 2015. However, in view of the political and socio-economic turmoil that followed the Asian financial crisis, it is uncertain if the projected targets could be achieved.

With the rapid expansion in the planted area, the annual production of palm in Malaysia had increased significantly in Malaysia; the crude palm oil (CPO) produced in 2001 was 11.8 million tons which was 4.6 times the volume produced in 1980. The increase in production in Sabah was particularly impressive, reflecting the aggressive planting policy in the state and it became the largest CPO producer in 1999. In 2001, Sabah accounted for 31.5% of the national production. Other major CPO producing states are Johor, Pahang and Perak in Peninsular Malaysia.

Table 1.3 : Projected Production of Palm Oil (2000-2020) (million tons)




World Total

Annual Production


10,100 (49.3%)

6,700 (32.7%)



10,700 (48.1%)

7,720 (34.7%)



10,980 (48.4%)

7,815 (34.5%)



11,050 (47.7%)

8,000 (34.6%)



10,900 (45.6%)

8,700 (36.4%)



11,700 (45.6%)

9,400 (36.6%)


Five-year Averages

1996 - 2000

9,022 (50.3%)

5,445 (30.4%)


2001 - 2005

11,066 (47.0%)

8,327 (35.4%)


2006 - 2010

12,700 (43.4%)

11,400 (39.0%)


2011 - 2015

14,100 (40.2%)

14,800 (42.2%)


2016 - 2020

15,400 (37.7%)

18,000 (44.1%)


(Oil World and MPOB, 2008)

Table 1.3 shows the percentage of world total production. The distribution of production in 2001 is rapidly increased within these 8 years. The table 1.4 shows the production of Crude Palm Oil in Malaysia (Tons).

Table 1.4 : Production of Crude Palm Oil in Malaysia (Tons)




































(Oil World and MPOB, 2008)




P. Pinang




N. Sembilan


Kedah & Perlis


Figure 1.2 : Production of Crude Palm Oil States in 2001

(Oil World and MPOB, 2008)

As the palm oil plantations covering more than 700,000 hectares, Sabah is the largest producer of crude palm oil in the whole of Malaysia contributing about 25% of the total production of crude palm oil in the country.

Figure 1.3 : Sabah Production of Palm Oil

1.3 Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME)

Raw POME is a colloidal suspension containing 95-96% water, 0.6-0.7% oil and 4-5% total solids including 2-4% suspended solids that are mainly consisted of debris from palm fruit mesocarp generated from three main sources, namely sterilizer condensate, separator sludge and hydrocyclone wastewater. For a well-controlled conventional mill, about 0.9, 1.5 and 0.1m3 wastewater are generated from sterilizer condensate, separator sludge and hydrocyclone wastewater, respectively, for each ton of crude palm oil produced.

In the year 2004, more than 40 million tonnes of POME was generated from 372 mills in Malaysia. If the effluent is discharged untreated, it can certainly cause considerable environmental problems due to its high biochemical oxygen demand (25,000 mg/l), chemical oxygen demand (53,630 mg/l), oil and grease (8370 mg/l), total solids (43,635 mg/l) as well as suspended solids (19,020 mg/l).

Therefore, the palm oil mill industry in Malaysia is identified as the one that produces the largest pollution load into the rivers throughout the country (A.L Ahmad & C. Y Tan, 2009). The discharge of untreated POME though creates adverse impact to the environment, the notion of nurturing POME and its derivatives as valuable resources should not be dismissed.

This is because POME contains high concentrations of protein, carbohydrate, nitrogenous compounds, lipids and minerals that may be converted into useful materials using microbial processes. Several studies have been reported on the exploitation of POME and its derivative as fermentation media to produce antibiotic and bioinsecticide, solvents, polyhydroxyalkanoates, organic acids as well as enzymes. There is an urgent need to find a compromising way that will enable the balance between the environmental protection and sustainable reuse of the nutrient sources found in the POME.

The current treatment system, which is based mainly on biological treatments of anaerobic and aerobic systems, is quite inefficient and this unfortunately leads to the environmental pollution issues. Moreover, the nutrient sources available in the POME cannot be effectively reused as a substrate in the fermentation after the conventional treatment process has been adopted.

However, the rapid development of the industry has had serious consequences on the natural environment, which mainly related to water pollution due to a large discharge of untreated or partially treated palm oil mill effluent (POME) into watercourses. In the year 2004, more than 40 million tones of POME was generated from 372 mills in Malaysia (Yacob et al, 2006). Therefore, the palm oil mill industry in Malaysia is identified as the one that produces the largest pollution load into the rivers throughout the country (Hwang et al, 1978).

It is acidic with pH 4-5 and discharged at temperature about 80-90°C. Although the effluent is non toxic, it has a very high concentration of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) (i.e. 25 000 mg/L) which becomes a serious threat to aquatic life when discharged in relatively large quantities into watercourses. Furthermore, POME contributes 83% of the industrial organic pollution load in Malaysia (Vigneswaran et al, 1999).

The most common practice for POME treatment nowadays is by biological processes in which based on anaerobic and aerobic pond system. However, biological treatment systems need proper maintenance and monitoring as the processes rely solely on microorganisms to break down the pollutants. Many palm oil mills which apply the biological treatment system failed to comply with the Department of Environment (DOE) standard discharge limits.

Therefore, the pre-treatment of POME using coagulation and flocculation processes has become an important feature, in order to efficiently reduce the organic load prior to subsequent treatment processes. Aluminium sulphate (alum), an inorganic salt, is the most widely used coagulant in wastewater treatment, due to its proven performance, cost-effectiveness and availability. However, the used of aluminium-based coagulant has become under scrutiny.

Besides the large amount of sludge produced, high level of aluminium remained in the treated water has raised concern on public health (Driscoll and Letterman, 1995). Previous research have pointed out that intake of large amount of aluminium salt may contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer disease (Pontius, 2000). Alternatively, an environmental friendly coagulant such as chitosan can be developed and used nowadays.

If the POME is discharged untreated, the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) produced in year 2008 was 1.108 million tones. By estimating, each citizen produces 14.6 kg of BOD every year (Doorn et al., 2006 cited in: A.L Ahmad & C.Y Tan, 2009); this pollution load is equivalent to the waste generated by 75 million people, which is about thrice the population of Malaysia.

Currently, the majority of palm oil mills have adopted conventional biological treatment of anaerobic or facultative digestion, which needs large treatment area and long treatment periods (80-120 days) (A.L Ahmad & C.Y Tan, 2009). In addition, the microorganisms, which are the COD and BOD digester, require intensive care, as they are sensitive to the surrounding temperature and pH.

Thus, skilled and experienced workers are needed for complete maintenance and control to ensure the biological treatment is implemented in an order manner. High content of suspended solids and organic matters in the effluent discharge can cause severe pollution of waterways due to oxygen-depletion and other related effects. The typical POME characteristics are shown in Table 1.5 (All parameter's units in mg/L except pH).


Concentration (mg/L)



Oil and grease


Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)


Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)


Total solids


Suspended solids


Total Volatile solids


Ammoniacal nitrogen


Total nitrogen




















2.3Table 1.5 : Characteristics of palm oil mill effluent

(Ma, 2000 cited in: A.L Ahmad & C.Y Tan, 2009)

1.4 Palm Oil for Bio-diesel

Generally, the use of palm oil-based biodiesel is increasing due to strong production growth in tropical countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria and Colombia. Palm oil is a promising feedstock for biodiesel production because of its low cost and high productivity per unit of planted area (Rojas, 2007). Palm oil biodiesel, also known as palm oil methyl ester (PME), differs from other types of biodiesel in its grade of molecule unsaturation. PME is more saturated, which means it has a lower number of double carbon bonds in its molecules. For diesel engine applications, the degree of biodiesel molecule unsaturation represents a compromise. Saturated fuels such as PME have high-ignition quality. However, they also harden at higher temperatures, making them difficult to use in cold weather.

Since biodiesel is derived from renewable sources, its production and use are being promoted worldwide as a way to reduce oil dependency and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Due to PME's rising importance as a biodiesel feedstock, it's important to consider its combustion and operational performance Rojas, 2007). In Europe, there is a high demand on crude palm oil for bio-diesel purposes (Yap, 2008). Many major producers are investing heavily in the refineries needed for the process to convert crude palm into bio-diesel. Due to the current high prices of fossil crude oil, bio-diesel is deemed as the alternative fuel source to gasoline for vehicles (Rojas, 2007)

However in Malaysia, the government have been targeting on using palm oil for bio-diesel since 2008. Malaysia as the world's second largest producer of crude palm oil (CPO) has implemented mandates for biodiesel and will give aid to the industry to replant as part of the package of measures to boost demand for CPO and curtail oversupply (The Star, 2008). In addition, back to the year of 2006, Malaysia took the lead in developing Asia's biodiesel industry and granted licenses to more than 90 companies to set up plants with visions of introducing palm biodiesel into the domestic fuel market. Therefore, the government had planned to introduce the bio-diesel in stages within central Peninsular Malaysia in 2011 (Bernama, 2010).

1.5 Edible Oil for Food Production

Palm oil is an important and versatile raw material for both food and non-food industries. It contributes to the economic development of the producing countries and to the diets of millions of people around the world. The oil is approximately 50% saturated fat and 50% unsaturated fat.

Due to such a unique characteristic palm oil may be separated under controlled thermal conditions into two components, a solid form (palm stearin) and a liquid form (palm olein). Palm oil is often used in healthy organic foods since the only other solid organic fats are highly saturated butter and coconut oil.

1.6 Problem Statements

There are a few problems regarding the use of water by the plant where fresh water is used too much during the operation. Hence, there are also inefficiencies of wastewater recovery and treatment. Furthermore, the researcher also indicated the poor wastewater management where the water used by the factory was not distributed properly. In addition, the researcher also had assessed the bad quality of the half-treated water.

Therefore, the researcher believes that are very important to incorporate water footprint assessment in order to manage the wastewater efficiently. Plus, by using water footprint assessment, the researcher assures that it will be more economic and increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Based on the research, a few question need to be answered regarding water footprint assessment in palm oil mill. The questions are :-

Does the water footprint assessment can determine the total use of water supply in each of the equipment?

Does the boiler become the main user of the water supplied?

1.7 Objectives

This research been conducted thorough some objectives as the main guidance why this research conducted. The objectives of this research are :-

To optimize the usage of the water footprint in palm oil mill in order to prevent the water use unwisely by the factory.

To minimize the usage of fresh water by the plant as the water used is recycled.

To present possible techniques to reduce the freshwater demand and wastewater generation for palm oil mill and to apply the 3R concept in the palm oil mill.

1.8 Research Approach

1.8.1 Water Footprint

A water footprint is a measure of the total water used to produce goods and services that a particular individual, business or nation uses. It is made up of two components: direct water use and indirect use (WWf, 2010). The indirect water use is measured as 'virtual' water (the volume of water required to produce a certain product). It includes use of blue water (rivers, lakes, aquifers), green water (rainfall in crop growth), and grey water (water polluted after agricultural, industrial and household use). 

In this context of research, water footprint is the total volume of freshwater used to produce the goods and services consumed by the equipments and units of the plant.

1.8.2 Water Assessment

In this context of research, water assessment is the method to indicate the water footprint from the first feed of water source until the end of the mill operation. This method been conducted by observing the water used in each of the equipment that required water to operate.

The main reason why water footprint assessment is needed as to look after our fresh water from be short of, such as river. As the researcher find out that the palm oil mill operation only used the source of water without give it back directly to the source. Besides, it needed to increase stringent environmental regulations and economic consideration. Finally, the public concern for the quality of the environment and how important to think about due to the expansion of water used.

1.9 Thesis Arrangement

Chapter 1 had successfully discussed about the overview of the research subject which is palm oil mill in the perspective of the use, world market contribution and palm oil production. In addition, the researcher also indicated the future of the palm oil as a bio-diesel which will be slowly used across the nation in 2011. This chapter also explained about the problems that the researcher found in wastewater management in palm oil mill. Furthermore, this first chapter also stated the objectives of the research and the questions that need to be answered at the end of this research.

In chapter 2, instead of explaining about the membrane treatment, this chapter also briefly discussed about POME conventional lagoon system and the ponding systems that have been used across the country. The researcher also believed, that there are very important to introduce and explain aggressively on some concepts that had been used in this research, hence, this chapter also had been discussed about the water footprint assessment concept and the concept of heuristic method.

In chapter 3 had discussed with introduction to where the research took place; Desa Kim Loong Palm Oil (DKLPO), followed by a brief description about DKLPO and some important information about the company. This chapter will also briefs about the operation at the palm oil. In addition, the researcher will be explained about the approach used, the process involved in conducting this research, the tools used to collect the data and the staged that the researcher practiced in analyzing the data.

In chapter 4, from the data collected and interpreted, the researcher had identified the total use of water supply in each equipment involved in the mill operations by doing the water footprint assessment. From the interpreted data, the researcher had made some recommendations for wastewater minimization as the water discharged from the mill operations is used only to fertilize the estate plantation.

Chapter 5 briefly discussed about the overall summary of water footprint assessment in palm oil mill which took place at Desa Kim Loong Palm Oil Mill. Moreover, by summarizing this study, the researcher had concluded all the discoveries found in this research. In addition, this chapter also had recommended some suggestions in minimizing the water usage in palm oil mill, especially to Desa Kim Loong Palm Oil (DKLPO). The recommendations that had been suggested in this chapter are the membrane treatment, the pinch analysis and the 3R concept.

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