Australia’s Leaf to establish biorefinery in Malaysia; in talks with Petronas for offtake supply

Leaf Resources Ltd says that the Malaysian authorities have approved a manufacturing licence for its proposed biorefinery at Segamat, in the southern state of Johor in Malaysia. The biorefinery will incorporate Leaf’s proprietary Glycell technology that converts plant waste, like palm oil empty fruit bunches (EFBs), into valuable industrial sugars and other chemicals used in a wide variety of products and by downstream manufacturing industries.

Read: Petronas Chemicals enters into MOU for biorefinery offtake

The manufacturing licence granted is for the production of fermentable sugars (hexose and pentose), refined glycerol and lignin. The licence approval is subject to the completion of an environmental study, as well as other standard conditions including the use of approved architectural and engineering consultancy services in the design of the biorefinery.

Leaf Managing Director Ken Richards said the licence approval is another important milestone in progressing the biorefinery project and reflects the positive engagement with Malaysian authorities.

Earlier in the year, Leaf signed an MOU with Malaysian company Biovision & Greenergy for the supply of 100,000 tonnes/year of empty fruit bunch fibre from palm oil to produce bio-based chemicals using its Glycell process.

Richards said, “Our Glycell technology uses renewable inputs in a low energy, low cost process that produces low carbon alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals and plastics. The abundant supply of empty fruit bunch – a waste product of palm oil production – in close proximity to the Johor site makes it an ideal location for the biorefinery.”

Richards added that Leaf will shortly commence the final phase 3 integrated demonstration trials of the Glycell process, which will produce samples of fermentable sugars, refined glycerol and lignin for potential customers. This follows the successful conclusion of phase 1 and phase 2 trials in Delft, Holland.

This final study will include the unique separation technology (simulated moving bed chromatography) unit designed and built by Amalgamated Research Inc (ARI), the company’s chromatographic separations development partner. The unit has now arrived in Holland from the US and will be installed into the pilot plant at Delft and commissioned over the next few weeks.

“Positive progress is also being made towards the start of our critical FEL 3 study, with a number of international engineering firms having advised their interest in undertaking this final engineering study on the Segamat site. We expect to finalise that appointment and timetable for this work by the end of October,” said Richards.

Leaf has also entered into a non-binding MOU with Malaysian oil/gas firm Petronas’s subsidiary Petronas Chemicals Group Berhad (PCG). The MOU provides for, among other things, a study of chemical markets and commercially ready bio-technologies. Subject to satisfactory findings in the study and the approval of PCG, the parties may pursue an offtake agreement for the fermentable sugars produced at the facility in Segamat.