In Focus
ENVIRONMENT | Isabelle Ulanday, Singapore

Is South East Asia the next frontier for biorenewables?

Biorenewables will greatly impact several billion dollar markets and revenues can grow to as much as EUR 450b by 2020.

“South East Asia is producing 450m tons of agricultural waste and this is a great potential for the biomass energy industry,” said Per Dahlen, Managing Director of AUM Business Creations, during the Clean Energy Expo held at Suntec Singapore.

Currently, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are at the forefront of the biomass energy industry.

According to Dahlen, 50% of the increase of ethanol in the next five years will be coming from Asia. “Mega plants produce ethanol at US$1,300/ton. Shipping ethylene will cost US$1900/ton; while on site biorefineries produce it at US$ 1400/ton. It will be difficult to compete with mega plants; however, it is possible to do so with imports.”

Dahlen believes that there is high potential for the oil palm industry in Asia. ”Oil palm biomass could become a US$30-35b industry, and more than 20% of the world’s ethylene market can come from biomass.”

He explains that one of the advantages of the biorenewable market is its potential impact for creating jobs. “One person working in a plantation can manage 2 hectares, if we have 1 million hectares, then there are 500,000 jobs created.”

The potential of cassava in the biomass market was also discussed.

“We’re interested in cassava. It’s easy to build a factory and easy to sell the product,” says Steve Peters, Director of Stratcon Singapore. “There’s a technology that strips out some chemicals from the stalks and come out with a byproduct that can be used as a fertilizer. However, this will only be applicable for the small refineries.”

Peters adds that they also have a technology where waste products from these factories can be turned into biogas.

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