Story About Agriculture and Environment

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Location: Bekasi, Jawa Barat, Indonesia

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Biodiesel, Biomass and Biogas

Palm oil, like other vegetable oils, can be used to create biodiesel for internal combustion engines. Biodiesel has been promoted as a renewable energy source to reduce net emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, biodiesel is seen as a way to decrease the impact of the greenhouse effect and as a way of diversifying energy supplies to assist national energy security plans.

Palm is also used to make biodiesel, as either a simply-processed palm oil mixed with petrodiesel, or processed through transesterification to create a palm oil methyl ester blend, which meets the international EN 14214 specification, with glycerin as a byproduct. The actual process used varies between countries, and the requirements of different export markets. Next-generation biofuel production processes are also being tested in relatively small trial quantities.
The IEA predicts that biofuels usage in Asian countries will remain modest. But as a major producer of palm oil, the Malaysian government is encouraging the production of biofuel feedstock and the building of biodiesel plants that use palm oil. Domestically, Malaysia is preparing to change from diesel to bio-fuels by 2008, including drafting legislation that will make the switch mandatory. From 2007, all diesel sold in Malaysia must contain 5% palm oil. Malaysia is emerging as one of the leading biofuel producers, with 91 plants approved and a handful now in operation, all based on palm oil.

On 16 December 2007, Malaysia opened its first biodiesel plant in the state of Pahang, which has an annual capacity of 100,000 tonnes, and also produces by-products in the form of 4,000 tonnes of palm fatty acid distillate and 12,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical grade glycerine. Neste Oil of Finland plans to produce 800,000 tonnes of biodiesel per year from Malaysian palm oil in a new Singapore refinery from 2010, which will make it the largest biofuel plant in the world, and 170,000 tpa from its first second-generation plant in Finland from 2007-8, which can refine fuel from a variety of sources. Neste and the Finnish government are using this paraffinic fuel in some public buses in the Helsinki area as a small scale pilot.
Some scientists and companies are going beyond using palm fruit oil, and are proposing to convert fronts, empty fruit bunches and palm kernel shells harvested from oil palm plantations into renewable electricity, cellulosic ethanol, biogas, biohydrogen and bioplastic. Thus, by using both the biomass from the plantation as well as the processing residues from palm oil production (fibers, kernel shells, palm oil mill effluent), bioenergy from palm plantations can have an effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of these production techniques have been registered as projects under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

By using palm biomass to generate renewable energy, fuels and biodegradable products, both the energy balance and the greenhouse gas emissions balance for palm biodiesel is improved. For every tonne of palm oil produced from fresh fruit bunches, a farmer harvests around 6 tonnes of waste palm fronds, 1 tonne of palm trunks, 5 tonnes of empty fruit bunches, 1 tonne of press fiber (from the mesocarp of the fruit), half a tonne of palm kernel endocarp, 250 kg of palm kernel press cake, and 100 tonnes of palm oil mill effluent. Oil palm plantations incinerate biomass to generate power for palm oil mills. Oil palm plantations yield large amount of biomass that can be recycled into medium density fibreboards and light furniture. In efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists treat palm oil mill effluent to extract biogas. After purification, biogas can substitute for natural gas for use at factories. Anaerobic treatment of palm oil mill effluent, practiced in Malaysia and Indonesia, results in domination of Methanosaeta concilii. It plays an important role in methane production from acetate and the optimum condition for its growth should be considered to harvest biogas as renewable fuel.
However, regardless of these new innovations, first generation biodiesel production from palm oil is still in demand globally. Palm oil is also a primary substitute for rapeseed oil in Europe, which too is experiencing high levels of demand for biodiesel purposes. Palm oil producers are investing heavily in the refineries needed for biodiesel. In Malaysia companies have been merging, buying others out and forming alliances to obtain the economies of scale needed to handle the high costs caused by increased feedstock prices. New refineries are being built across Asia and Europe.

As the food vs. fuel debate mounts, research direction is turning to biodiesel production from waste. In Malaysia, an estimated 50,000 tonnes of used frying oils, both vegetable oils and animal fats, are disposed of yearly without treatment as wastes. In a 2006 study researchers found used frying oil (mainly palm olein), after pre-treatment with silica gel, is a suitable feedstock for conversion to methyl esters by catalytic reaction using sodium hydroxide. The methyl esters produced have fuel properties comparable to those of petroleum diesel, and can be used in unmodified diesel engines.
A 2009 study by scientists at Universiti Sains Malaysia concluded that palm oil, compared to other vegetable oils, is a healthy source of edible oil and at the same time, available in quantities that can satisfy global demand for biodiesel. Oil palm planting and palm oil consumption circumvents the food vs. fuel debate because it has the capacity to fulfill both demands simultaneously. By 2050, a British scientist estimates global demand for edible oils will probably be around 240 million tonnes, nearly twice of 2008's consumption. Most of the additional oil may be palm oil, which has the lowest production cost of the major oils, but soybean oil production will probably also increase. An additional 12 million hectares of oil palms may be required, if average yields continue to rise as in the past. This need not be at the expense of forest; oil palm planted on anthropogenic grassland could supply all the oil required for edible purposes in 2050.
(From :

Palm Oil

Palm oil is an edible plant oil derived from the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis.
Palm oil is naturally reddish because it contains a high amount of beta-carotene (though boiling palm oil destroys the beta-carotene, rendering the oil colourless). Palm oil is one of the few vegetable oils relatively high in saturated fats (like palm kernel oil and coconut oil). It is thus semi-solid at typical temperate climate room temperatures, though it will more often appear as liquid in warmer countries.
Palm oil contains several saturated and unsaturated fats in the forms of lauric (0.1%, saturated), myristic (0.1%, saturated), palmitic (44%, saturated), stearic (5%, saturated), oleic (39%, monounsaturated), linoleic (10%, polyunsaturated), and linolenic (0.3%, polyunsaturated) acids. Like any vegetable oils, palm oil is designated as cholesterol-free, though saturated fat intake increases both LDL and HDL cholesterol.
Palm oil is a very common cooking ingredient in southeast Asia and the tropical belt of Africa. Its increasing use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its cheaper pricing and the high oxidative stability of the refined product.
Palm oil contains more saturated fats than some other vegetable oils. The palm fruit yields two distinct oils - palm oil and palm kernel oil.
(From :

Finding Bamboo That's 800 Years Old

A large proportion of the Earth's natural rainforest is gone because of urbanization, land development and deforestation. We need trees to provide for our basic needs - paper, tissue, furniture, fabric, medicine, etc but the cost of that is the death of our natural resources. Many companies and organizations have launched "save the rainforest" projects by distributing tree seedlings and then planting them, in the hopes that it shall grow tall to replace the lost ones. However, trees take too long to mature. Some trees would take years, if not, decades, to become a completely mature plant.

The durability of the bamboo over time is demonstrated by the recent discovery of an 800-year old bamboo in a shipwreck. The Natural Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage had set up an expedition team to search for relics in a shipwreck near the Taen's Mado island off the coast of South Chungcheong Province. The team retrieved about 1,400 relics, including mokgan or wooden bamboo labels containing information about the items on board the ship. Recorded invoices were found, containing information about cargo's shipping and departure times, its various destinations and recipients, and the type and number of shipments onboard. This marked the significant discovery of the use of bamboo tabs during the Goryeo era of Korea. Records have indicated that the shipwreck happened while delivering grains, fish sauce and porcelain ware to general who lived in Gaegyong, North Korea.

Unlike trees, bamboos are a different sort. Yes, they may look like trees, because they are tall, flexible, and sturdy. However, bamboos are members of the grass species, and like a weed, it is easy for them to just sprout and grow, untended and uncared for. Bamboos grow steadily fast, and mature quickly and easily renewable - characteristics which tree plants do not normally have. Thus, bamboos can be a perfect substitute for wood. A bamboo plant is not only an environment-friendly alternative for wood, but it also brings with it many industrial purposes, both in design and engineering.

Recently, many companies have been using bamboo as furniture. Bamboo furniture is a unique design for the office, house or business establishment. Its flexible and pliant nature makes it easy to sculpt and mold the bamboo into table, couch, or window blinds. Having bamboo furniture gives a natural, earthy feel to one's room space. It also sits well with an Oriental or Asian-inspired theme to the interior decorations, such as bamboo blinds, slits, natural candles or natural wax candles, bamboo water fountains and bamboo frames.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reasons Why Earthworms Come Out During Rains

Earthworms have a huge role in our environment. They convert the bigger pieces of matter into something that can make the soil fertile. They do this important role by pulling the matter down to the soil. Earthworms are commonly seen on the ground just after the rain. They come out and wiggle their bodies as if they are enjoying the water. Many scientists believe that several factors affect the earthworms' behavior after the rain. This may include the temperature, ph balance as well as their natural instincts.

1. The first possible answer to the question why do earthworms come out in the rain is because of the change in the ground's temperature that they feel when rain pours in. Most earthworms live deep underground because of the warm temperature under layers of soil.

2. The second possible answer to the question why do earthworms come out in the rain is because of the change in the soil's pH value. Other experts also think that it could be that some soils have the tendency to form a higher concentration of cadmium when rains pour.

3. The third feasible answer to the question why do earthworms come out in the rain is because of the different variability that is phenotypic in nature. There may be just some worms that cannot submerge in the water for a long time.

4. The fourth feasible answer to the question why do earthworms come out in the rain is because some kinds of worms require little oxygen. The presence of water makes for more content of oxygen on the ground. However the P. corethrurus is a worm that has tolerance for getting immersed in water hence they don't come out during a rain.

5. The fifth possible answer to the question why do earthworms come out in the rain is perhaps because of their natural behavior. It is a possibility that most worms behave this way during rains and it may not be because of their need for more oxygen or less thereof.

6. Another likely reason why earthworms come out during the rains is because they love moisture. The worms would like to rise above the surface to bask in the moisture on the soil. This is the same behavior isopods exhibit during wet seasons when they rise up and climb plants or trees. This is also a similar behavior for most earthworms when they come out.

( By : Kenny Leones )

Grass Stronger Than Steel

There are few plants that man has been able to use in a larger variety of ways than bamboo. This plant can grow to giant proportions and is a close relative to rice and corn - all in the grass family. Bamboos grow on every continent apart from Europe and the Antarctic and it is mostly found in Asia.

Bamboo is used as construction material, raw material for paper, material for tools, musical instruments, fishing poles and high quality furniture. Ancient Japanese houses used to be built entirely from this grass. The expansive use of bamboos is due to its strength, which can be compared to steel. It seems that this plant has the fastest recorded growth rate - 120cm in 24 hours.

In Japan a special type of bamboos called mao-chu is used for manufacturing furniture. An especially decorative and expensive type is called kiko-chiku, which has joints in triangular shapes that resembles a turtle shell. A classic Japanese house has an attic made of bamboo, wood and paper. Various household objects, baskets, arrows and bows, tea sets and even some types of samurai swords incorporate bamboo. A substance similar to wax is taken from the knots of young sprouts and used for making candles.

In India a peasant is born, lives and dies with regular use of this peculiar grass. The umbilical cord is cut with a bamboo knife, the child sleeps in a bamboo cradle and young sprouts are a part of daily meals. The land is farmed with bamboo tools, which are also used to feed the cattle. The dead are burned on stretchers made from bamboo.

Asian kitchens prepare many meals using bamboo. One interesting fact is that giant bamboo contains cyanide, but if boiled the poison breaks down and it is safe to eat. Bamboo is a very important ingredient for meals. It is also used for making sweet wine and as dishes for serving rice and soup. Food is also cooked in bamboo, which gives it a very different flavour. The most important fact for this modern age is that bamboo items are eco friendly. In addition, if the redecoration of one's house is under consideration, the warmest recommendation goes out to this flexible, strong grass to be utilized in the home.

(by : Dave Vower)

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