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Biofuel From Sago

Sarawak will turn sago waste into bioethanol for fuel.

A pilot plant, with a daily production capacity of one tonne, is under construction at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) in Samarahan, near here.

The plant, which is expected to begin commercial production in six months, is the first in South-East Asia, said Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Fadillah Yusof at the project’s earth-breaking ceremony yesterday.

Unimas and AGS Sdn Bhd were given RM11.6mil under the ministry’s Techno-Fund grant to carry out research and development on sago starch and its effluents and solid waste for production of bioethanol.

“The plant is built based on the success of the research,” said Fadillah.

Unimas’ principal researcher Prof Dr Kopli Bujang said the pilot plant would produce bioethanol as an additive for fuel, which did not need for car engines to be modified.

He said such projects had been implemented in Thailand, the Philippines and Japan, although different substrates were being used.

Dr Kopli said bioethanol fetched between US$400 (RM1,400) and US$700 (RM2,450) a tonne in the market, adding that several Japanese firms had enquired about Unimas’ production.

“Apart from bioethanol, the pilot plant can be used to produce lactic acid from sago starch, which is an expensive commodity for pharmaceutical industries,” he said.

Dr Kopli said future plans would include using sago effluents for the culture of petro-algae for the production of biodiesel.

The plant will have facilities for hydrolysis of starch and cellulose into sugar, fermentation process and downstream processing for distillation and dehydration of the ethanol produced.

Water generated from the distillation stage can be recycled for use in starch hydrolysis.


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