Enterprise
Technology transfer in palm oil industry
Najihah S 
The Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. eBio’s growth is co-dependent on the technological transfer that it receives from the German applied sciences institute
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THE Malaysian palm oil supply is big. Palm oil export value is expected to exceed RM70 bil this year with higher export anticipated. However, we can’t deny the fact that there is an urgent need for a more sustainable method to produce palm oil-related products.

With the involvement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are able to provide agricultural technology, particularly in the palm oil industry, productivity can be enhanced further.

For instance, eBio Green Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of eBio Advance Technology of Japan, brings sustainable method of producing palm oil ester into the country.

 

Massive potential in agricultural technology

eBio Green, fronted by Japanese Toshi Nakajima, is an exclusive technology licensing rights holder to a specialised method in producing palm oil-related products. The company works on producing quality palm ester at a competitive cost and allows the wider application of palm oil.

According to Nakajima, the company is in discussion to find out the palm tree feedstock that can be supplied to eBio to make ester oil on yearly basis

“We hope that lubricants will become revolutionary to replace minerals and synthetic oil. For Malaysia, eBio is looking at palm oil to produce eBio base oil,” Nakajima tells FocusM.

From the base ester oil, various final products can be developed for industries like pharmaceutical, cosmetics, automotive, food, agriculture and fishing, oil and gas (O&G), marine, defence, home consumer products and industrial lubricants.

eBio, which has been in Malaysia only this year, is focusing on the marketing strategy to gain the trust of major industry players, including government agencies. The company will be investing in developing palm oil feedstock early next year, and subsequently be setting up a plant which is estimated to cost US$2 mil.

“We are in discussions to find out the palm tree feedstock that can be supplied to make eBio oil on a yearly basis. Concurrently, we are also looking into clients who are willing to explore the journey with us to produce high quality eBio super esters in Malaysia,” says Nakajima, who has more than a decade of experience doing business in Southeast Asia.

“Once the supply of feedstocks and demand from clients are finalised, we will proceed to build a production plant in Malaysia. Our core focus now is to finalise the joint development technology initiatives with the government and other investors too,” he adds.

The palm oil feedstock facility will be able to generate income for eBio as the company has the method to develop sustainable palm oil products. This is where the large multinational corporations, which have the palm oil resources, can turn them into sustainable palm oil products at eBio’s facility.

eBio, which will act as an enabler to develop new palm oil products and services, will also look into assisting these large companies to reduce carbon emission.

Being a relatively new company in the country, Nakajima points out that there are hurdles as well as some misconceptions faced.

Nakajima, who also spent several years in the retail and hospitality industry says, “The challenge to be in the eBio industry is that we need to have a good balance between food and energy. People believe that the use of palm oil should be replaced, but the fact is, vegetable oil is a limited resource.

“Therefore, we do not recommend using vegetable oil as an exchange to fuel because that can trigger food crises. That is why we need to create best solution for palm oil as it can be used for many purposes.”

Regionally, eBio already has operations in Bangkok, Thailand and is currently producing eBio oil made from soybean whereas its factory in Batam, Indonesia processes rapeseed oil for industrial purposes. 

 

Forging ties with other technological partners

eBio’s growth is co-dependent on the technological transfer that it receives from a German applied sciences institute, Fraunhofer IVV. The institute, which develops solutions for various industries such as marine, automotive as well as O&G, is currently working on developing novel products from vegetable oil.

Fraunhofer, which spends an estimated €2 bil (RM8.38 bil) on research, will also be funding some of eBio’s research on ester in Malaysia.

With the ability to reduce contamination, the palm oil ester to be developed is seen as a drive to create awareness on non-toxic renewable energy. “I hope that more government in various countries will start to set new policy; to use non-toxic and environmentally-friendly oil to save the earth,” Nakajima says.

He adds that the government agencies have been very proactive in creating strong relationships with technology enablers such as eBio.

“Malaysia is an all-new market for eBio and in fact we are only at the discussion stage on research and development with our strategic partners such as Malaysia Innovation Hub (MIH) and GreenTech Malaysia.

In September, eBio entered into a partnership with MIH to explore the pilot plant for palm oil ester using eBio technology.

“Our partnership with MIH is deemed to be integral as we need local partners who are under the supervision and in line with government initiatives to optimise production oil from palm trees.

“eBio is impressed that GreenTech is positive about this partnership as it is in line with the government’s objective of driving the green economy with the introduction of new green and energy-efficient technology to an important industry such as our palm oil. GreenTech looks forward to enhancing our knowledge, drive green jobs and grow green businesses in Malaysia too,” Nakajima explains.

On the potential revenue to be derived from in Malaysia, Nakajima says “Malaysia is deemed to have become one of eBio’s main revenue drivers but currently it is too early to throw a definitive figure on the projected revenue.”

Workshops on its products and environmental issues

APART from being a company that provides technological solutions, eBio Green Sdn Bhd understands the importance of creating awareness on environmental issues.

In May last year, eBio conducted a workshop in Seoul about carbon reduction and how to reduce pollution. The workshop includes live demonstrations of how an engine oil and lubricant developed derived by palm oil is almost if not better in efficiency compared to the industrial chemical ones.

The company also participated in Paris Climate Change Conference, which is a forum that enables players in sustainable energy to share and gather new ideas. One of the issues highlighted was the oil to sea interface which is pertinent in the production of lubricants.

In light of that, eBio is also working on reducing the contamination that lubricant production can cause by following a waste disposal method that is efficient, non-toxic and high in fire-resistant in the event of any oil leakage. Through the bio transformer oil machine, it reduces the cases of accidents and it will also be cost efficient.



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 259.