What is Biomass?

The following are some consensus definitions of biomass at European and International level:

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Definition of renewable biomass: “The biomass is the non-fossil fraction of an industrial or municipal waste.”
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Definition of solid biomass: “Biomass is defined as any plant matter used directly as fuel or converted into other forms before combustion.”
  • EU’s Waste Framework Directive: “bio-waste” means biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises and comparable waste from food processing plants”
  • International Energy Agency (IEA) Definition of Biomass (see page 575): “Solid Biomass products, gas and liquids derived from biomass and the renewable part of municipal waste.”
  • European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) Definition of Biodegradable Waste: “Biodegradable waste is the biomass that can cover several forms of waste such as organic fraction of municipal solid waste, wood waste, refuse-derived fuels, sewage sludge, etc.”

Is there a biomass industry in Malaysia?

The biomass industry represents several different industries brought together by the utilization of renewable organic matters including timber waste, oil palm waste, rice husk; coconut trunk fibers, municipal waste, sugar cane waste, etc (refer to Figure 1 below). These organic materials have the potential to be used in the manufacturing of value-added eco-products (e.g. bio-plastics, bio-composites, bio-fertilizers, bio-pellets, etc.) and the generation of renewable energy (refer to Figure 2 below).

Figure 1: Different types of biomass available in Malaysia

  • Empty Fruit Bunches
  • Palm Kernel Shell
  • Rice husk
  • Forest Residues
  • Sawdust
  • Wood Chips
  • Municipal Solid Waste
  • Manure

Figure 2: Different types of products which can be derived from biomass

  • Natural Oil Palm Fibre Strand
  • Geotextiles
  • Biomass Wood Pellet
  • Briquette from Straw and Hay
  • Cork Flooring
  • Compost From Municipal Solid Waste

While it goes without saying the biomass industry in Malaysia has enormous untapped potentials for commercialization given the minimum biomass production of 168 million tones a year as -well hundred types of biomass-related research and development (R&D) activities undertaken by local research institutions and universities, the full utilization of biomass in the market is yet to be achieved. Among the barriers faced are:

A lot of policies developed to facilitate the uptake on biomass and renewable energy among SMEs are still underway, limiting the efficiencies of coordination among local agencies and biomass industry in Malaysia.

There is no reliable and clear data on the potential of biomass in the market

Limited incentives and funding support are provided to bear the high cost of initial investment in parallel to the need for increased utilization of renewable resources to combat climate change, biomass definitely has a firm position in the national strategies to achieve sustainable consumption and production and combat climate change. As such, the biomass commercialization issues is growing to be more complex and more diverse, opening opportunities for engagement between different industries, government agencies, and research institutions.