The oil palm industry is a very important industry which contributes immensely towards the economy of the country. In 2009 alone, the total exports of oil palm products, constituting palm oil, palm kernel oil, palm kernel cake, oleochemicals and finished products, amounted to 22.40 million tonnes, resulting in total export earnings of RM 49.59 billion. The oil palm industry is an export-orientated industry which relies heavily on the world market. Therefore, it is vital for the oil palm industry to be sustainable and competitive to increase its longterm profitability. The objective of this study is to identify the potential environmental impacts associated with the production of crude palm oil (CPO), and to evaluate opportunities to overcome the potential impacts. This study has a cradle-to-gate system boundary. This article is part of the life cycle assessment (LCA) of the whole supply chain for palm oil, and is linked to the upstream LCA for nursery and plantation which can be found in Parts 1 and 2. This article examines the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) of the production of 1 t of CPO at the palm oil mill.
For this study, 12 palm oil mills were selected. These mills were selected based on the type of mill, i.e. whether they were plantation-based mills or private mills, and having different processing capacities for fresh fruit bunches (FFB). The mills selected were all located in different zones in West Malaysia. Inventory data collection consisted of inputs and outputs of materials and energy. LCIA was carried out using the Simapro software version 7.1 and the Eco-indicator 99 methodology. Results show that the impact categories with significant impacts were from fossil fuels, respiratory inorganics and climate change. The impact under the fossil fuels category came from the production of the fertilizers used as well as diesel usage for transportation and harvesting in the nursery and plantation phases. The impact categories of climate change and respiratory inorganics came from upstream activities and the palm oil mill effluent (POME) in the mill. Both these impact categories are related to air emissions. The main air emission from the POME ponds during the anaerobic digestion was biogas which consisted of methane, carbon dioxide and traces of hydrogen sulphide. The unharvested biogas is a greenhouse gas. The impact under respiratory inorganics and climate change from upstream was caused by the application of nitrogen fertilizers in the plantation as well as the nursery. When biogas was captured, the impact under climate change was reduced. What was left were the impacts from upstream activities. The Malaysian oil palm industry should seriously look into the old sludge treatment system which is emitting biogas. They should capture the biogas and use it as renewable energy source, or produce value-added products such as fertilizer from POME which will eliminate methane generation.
* Malaysian Palm Oil Board, P. O. Box 10620, 50720 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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Last updated: 24 February 2017
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