Journal of Oil Palm Research ELAEIS Special Issue, November 1995, p. 15-22

Production And Evaluation Of Palm Oil Methyl Esters As Diesel Substitute



The fast diminishing energy reserves, greater environmental awareness and increasing energy consumption have led to an intensified search for viable alternate sources of energy globally. In this respect PORIM/PETRONAS has patented an efficient process to produce methyl esters from palm oil with varying amounts of free fatty acid content. The process requires milder conditions ie. low temperature (80°C and lower pressure (atmospheric) than the existing commercial processes. The production technology has been successfully demonstrated at a pilot plant (3,000 tonnes/year) scale and the technology is now ready for commercial exploitation.

Over the past few years, palm oil methyl esters has been extensively evaluated as diesel substitute in a wide range of diesel engines including stationary engines, passenger cars, buses and trucks. The last phase of an exhaustive field trial involving 36 buses is near completion. The buses are running on three fuels i.e. 100% palm oil methyl esters, 100% petroleum diesel (as control) and, a 5O:50 blend of the two fuels. So far very promising results have been obtained as follows:

1. No modification of the diesel engine is required
2. Engine performance is very good
3. The exhaust emission is much cleaner with reduction in black smoke, NOx, CO and absence of SO2
4. No abnormal wear and fear in engine components and no nozzle deposits
5. No engine oil dilution
6. Fuel consumption is comparable

This paper describes the production technology and evaluation of the palm oil methyl esters as diesel substitute/diesel improver.


* Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia,
P.O. Box 10620, 50720 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.