Journal of Oil Palm Research Vol. 22  2010 December p.  895-903

Life cycle assessment of the production of crude palm oil (Part 3)

Author(s): SUBRAMANIAM, Vijaya* ; CHOO Yuen May* ; HALIMAH Muhammad* ; ZULKIFLI Hashim* ; TAN Yew Ai* ; PUAH Chiew Wei*

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.

Keywords: , , , , ,

Author Information
* Malaysian Palm Oil Board, P. O. Box 10620, 50720 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Cited By

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Source: Scopus
Last updated: 24 February 2017

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