Yayasan Sime Darby funds lab for microalgae research to lower carbon emissions at palm oil mills

Facility located at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is part of the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development: Zero Waste Technology for Palm Oil Industry

Kuala Lumpur, 20 March 2017 – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), with support from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), has established a carbon capture laboratory which is currently researching the use of microalgae to treat palm oil mill effluents (POME).

The facility, located at UKM, was established under the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development: Zero Waste Technology for Palm Oil Industry. YSD provided a RM15 million endowment in 2010 to find innovative zero-waste solutions for the palm oil industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

YSD Governing Council Member Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Wan Noordin, who launched the carbon capture facility at UKM recently said the research conducted at the carbon capture laboratory uses microalgae to trap carbon dioxide released by POME and also convert the waste to usable solutions for income generation.

Currently, palm oil mills channel its waste into ponds for treatment. However, greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide emitted during the treatment process is allowed to dissipate to the atmosphere.

Repeated experiments at UKM’s carbon capture laboratory have shown that up to 99% of carbon dioxide contained in POME can be successfully captured by local strains of microalgae.

“If application of this research is proven to be successful, it could change the way the palm oil industry handles its waste with a method that is not only more efficient and sustainable with lower greenhouse gas emissions but also able to generate wealth,” he said.
The microalgae that is grown in the treatment of POME can be harvested and utilised as a feedstock for various valuable products ranging from animal feed and fertilisers to feedstock for biofuel production.

The UKM team has also filed an intellectual property (IP) application for the integrated POME treatment and carbon dioxide capture using local microalgae strains.

Tan Sri Wan Zahid also said Yayasan Sime Darby has allocated 17 out of 67 YSD scholarships offered under its Environment pillar to students to pursue postgraduate studies in UKM. 

From left: Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) Chief Executive Officer, Yatela Zainal Abidin; Director for the Institute of Climate Change, Professor Dato’ Dr. Sharifah Mastura Syed Abdullah; YSD Governing Council Member, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Mohd Zahid Mohd Noordin; Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Dean of the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, Professor Dato’ Ir. Dr. Abdul Wahab Mohammad; Vice-Chancellor of UKM, Professor Dato' Seri Dr. Noor Azlan Ghazali and the Manager of the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development: Zero Waste Technology, Professor Ir. Dr. Mohd Sobri Takriff at the launch of the carbon capture facility at UKM.

YSD Governing Council Member, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Mohd Zahid Mohd Noordin; UKM Deputy Executive Director of Research, Strategic Communications and Marketing, Professor Dr. Muhammad Kassim; Vice-Chancellor of UKM, Professor Dato' Seri Dr. Noor Azlan Ghazali; Manager of the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development: Zero Waste Technology, Professor Ir. Dr. Mohd Sobri Takriff and industry expert from the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development, Professor Dr. Mohd Tusirin Mohd Nor with the raceway pond which is used for effluent treatment using native microalgae.

UKM Vice Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali said construction of the carbon capture laboratory began in November 2015 and it has been operating since April 2016. 

He also said the UKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development has forged collaborations with local universities namely Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), University of Nottingham Malaysia as well as international universities such as the Wageningen University and Research Centre in Netherlands, Feng Chia University in Taiwan as well as the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research. 

“This collaboration has created a consortium of Malaysian intellectuals with a global outlook. The research that is being conducted is related to industrial needs and covers a wide spectrum of expertise such as renewable energy, waste water management, biomass conversion, membrane technology, biology and biotechnology, fuel cell and carbon capture,” he said. 

During the event, Tan Sri Wan Zahid also launched three books about the research conducted under the UKM-YSD Chair for Climate Change published by UKM titled “Biological Diversity in the Oil Palm Ecosystem”, “Climate Change Laboratories Related to Institute of Climate Change (IPI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia” and “Impak Kenaikan Aras Laut di Kawasan Rendah Pesisiran Pantai Batu Pahat, Johor (The Impact of Rising Sea Levels Along the Low-Lying Coast of Batu Pahat, Johor).” 

Under the Environment pillar, YSD to date has committed RM130 million towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.

About Yayasan Sime Darby 
Yayasan Sime Darby, or Sime Darby Foundation, was established in 1982 and is the primary driver of Sime Darby Berhad’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. 

The objectives of Yayasan Sime Darby are supported by its five pillars, namely: education; environment; community & health; youth & sports; arts & culture. While led by independent members of a Governing Council and managed by a dedicated team, Yayasan Sime Darby works closely with the Sime Darby Group, in areas of mutual interest. 

Since its inception, Yayasan Sime Darby has awarded scholarships worth RM253 million to 3,357 students both in and outside Malaysia. It is supporting long term research projects of significant scientific value like the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project which is the world’s largest ecological project, and the Reforestation and Rehabilitation of Orang Utan Habitats in Northern Ulu Segama. 

Yayasan Sime Darby is also actively involved in the development and improvement of sports in Malaysia namely track cycling, cricket, sailing and golf. Under its community & health pillar, Yayasan Sime Darby supports initiatives to promote the well-being of disadvantaged people irrespective of race, culture, religion, creed or gender and works with established organisations to promote the development of arts & culture. 

For further information, please contact:

Meena Lakshana
Senior Executive, Public Relations
Yayasan Sime Darby 
Tel:  03-2691 4122 Ext 7614, 013-256 7160 (HP)