Neste-lead project verified 50% methane emission reduction at palm oil mills

New application of a known method In 2017, findings of the collaborative project and the newly-developed calculation method were ready to be presented in public. The method itself, separating solid organic matter from wastewater with a belt filter press is not particularly new. Its use to remove solids from the palm oil mill effluent (POME) is new, however, and focuses directly on removing the root cause of methane emissions, i.e. the organic matter such as degrading parts of the oil palm fruit in the mill effluent. What is also new is the Neste-developed method to calculate, i.e. to verify the actual emission reduction resulting from such filtering. To validate the emission savings from adopting the belt press method, the mill simply needs to weigh the belt press cake removed with the belt filter press and measure its carbon content. The amount of the belt press cake together with its carbon content provides the means to calculate removed organic carbon which, according to the study results, correlates with the reduction in measured methane emissions. Enormous climate potential “Our project showed that removing organic matter from the palm oil mill’s wastewater by a belt press offers great environmental potential. In our study, removal of solid organic matter reduced greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 50% at the POME pond compared to the conventional open pond emissions”, explains Annamari Enström, Neste’s sustainability expert and one of the researchers involved in the project. The potential that the method offers is enormous. In Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, approximately 70% of palm oil is produced without methane reduction methods. If all the producers in these countries were to adopt the studied new method, greenhouse gases would be reduced by approximately 4.5 million tons annually. This is equivalent to removing 1.6 million passenger cars from the roads. For Neste, application of the method would mean that the greenhouse gas reduction potential of Neste MY Renewable Diesel produced from palm oil could be increased even further from the current 69% compared to conventional fossil diesel usage. The current life cycle emission figure is already much better than the 50% greenhouse gas emission reduction requirement defined in the Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED) for all biofuels. Environmental solution that pays off The investment costs related to the belt press method are significantly lower than those related to methane capture method. In addition to reducing emissions at palm oil mills, the belt press method offers significant other benefits, as well. “Adopting the belt filter press reduces the need for dredging the solid waste from the bottom of POME ponds, which currently has to be done every five to seven years and requires operation shutdowns. By reducing the need to reserve land for dredging, it also frees land area for more productive uses. The belt press cake, dry leftover matter, is rich in nutrients and can be used at oil palm plantations as organic soil enhancer, decreasing need for store-purchased fossil fertilizers. The purified water from the press can be directed to an irrigation water system, reducing the need to derive irrigation water from other sources. The filtering also reduces the need for other physical or chemical treatments that have formerly been required before the discharge to the environment”, lists Asta Soininen from Neste, also one of the researchers involved in the study. “This combination of an already known wastewater treatment method, and Neste-developed method to verify the emission reduction in a rather simple manner, has generated great interest. And to be honest, I am not surprised”, says Enström. “Besides offering global climate benefits and several local benefits, applying the method and verifying the emission reduction are also very cost-effective.” New method suggested for inclusion in certification systems It would promote a good practice in the palm oil industry if the method were officially recognized in relevant certification systems. This would mean that the certification system would include a new emission factor that can be applied to greenhouse gas calculations for certification purposes by companies using the belt press method. The method and its emissions-saving potential have already raised interest in certification bodies. Receiving a certification system recognition for the method would allow palm oil producers applying this method to verify their environmental benefits and lower emissions without having to conduct complicated and expensive actual gas emission measurements. Source / More: Neste Follow us: @OilAndGasPress on Twitter | OilAndGasPress on Facebook ]]>