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EFB Pellets: An Emerging Fuel Resource

By Jack Huang    Aug 23, 2014

Increasing growth of global economy has been exerting pressure on existing energy resources. Sustainable fuel resource development is required to combat the increasing demand for fuel, the diminishing of fossil fuels and forestry resource and degradation of environment. One of the emerging biomass resource that can help to solve these issues is EFB pellets from oil palm biomass.

EFB pellets made from professional efb pellet machines
EFB pellets

Ample Empty Fruit Bunches biomass

Oil palm is a multi-purpose plantation and it is a productive biomass producer. One kg of palm oil produced is accompanied by 4 kg of oil palm biomass, such as oil palm empty fruit bunches known as EFBs and oil palm trunks and fronds. Oil palm biomass and its by-products supplied are seven times of that of natural timber. Oil palm is mainly planted in Southeast Asian and with Malaysia, Indonesia ,and Thailand listed as top three.

Empty Fruit Bunch
Ample of EFB biomass

In 2005, 7,599, 000 ha oil palm was harvested in Asia totally and with 146,093,000 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches and 10224000 tonnes of EFBS produced.

 

  Oil palm harvested area Fresh fruit bunches Empty fruit bunches estimated amount
  *1.000 ha % in Asia *1.000 tonnes % in Asia *1.000 tonnes
Malaysia 3620 47.6 75650 51.8 5296
Indonesia 3600 47.4 64255 44.0 4498
Thailand 315 4.1 5250 3.6 368
Philippines 17 0.2 233 0.2 16
China 47 0.6 675 0.5 47
Asia Total 7599(60.3% of world total) 100.0 146063( 84.2% of world total) 100.0 10224( 84.2% of world total)


EFBs composition

EFBs is oily and bulky, consisted of cellulose, hemicelluloses lignin, containing the elements such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, etc., and have a high moisture content around 65%. The element analysis and Proximate analysis of the EFB are shown in the following diagram for your reference.

 

  Literature values % (w/w) Measured % (w/w) Method;
Elemental analysis
Carbon 48.9 49.07 Combustion analysis
Hydrogen 6.3 6.48  
Nitrogen 0.7 0.7  
Sulphur 0.2 <0.10  
Oxygen 36.7 38.29 By difference
K 2.24 2.00 Spectrometry
K2O 3.08–3.65; na na
Proximate analysis
Moisture na 7.95 ASTM E871
Volatiles 75.7 83.86 ASTM E872
Ash 4.3 5.36 NREL LAP005
Fixed carbon; 17 10.78 By difference
HHV (MJ/kg) 19.0 19.35 Bomb calorimeter
LHV (MJ/kg) 17.2 na na

The physical properties of EFBs make them valuable and make them difficult to be utilized at the same time .


EFB utilization

Traditionally, EFB are not used efficiently and they are commonly used in the following ways:

  1.  EFBs is burned and their ashes is recycled as fertilizers for plantations. Now burning of EFB in large scale is not allowed.
  2. EFB is returned to the fields to be used as mulch, which may reduce GHG emission for it may reduce the need for artificial fertilizers by improving carbon sequestration in the soil and soil organic matters.
  3. Part of EFBs is sent to fill the land and emit methane.

With the limitation of traditional utilization of EFB biomass, huge of EFB biomass energy is wasted. Now with the innovation on EFB converting technology, EFBs biomass can be successfully be converted into pellets fuel used by co-firing system and biomass boilers to produce steam and electricity.

According to related data, in 2009, 1714 GWh off-grid energy was generated from 88.74 mill tones of EFB at 20 kwh/tone in Asia, and total off grid generating capacity was 357 MW at 400 hr/month.
EFB palm fiber biomass application


EFB pellets

Why EFBs are made into pellets? Can’t we just throw the EFB biomass into the EFB boilers or EFB power plant directly? The reason of converting EFBs into pellets are as follow:

  • Generally, the energy content of EFB biomass will be increased after being converted into pellets.
  • Densified EFB pellet fuel or briquettes enjoying a calorific value between 4,200 – 4,900 kg cal/kg 28 can be used to substituted coals to ease energy pressure and environment pressure.
  • EFB pellets is sustainable and renewable and can be produced in large scales which also can be friendly to environment.
  • EFB pellets are densified and clean and can be easily transported and stored. EFB pellets generate little smoke while burning.


EFB pellet production

Various of EFB pellets can be made based on the different requirements of the consumers. On investing EFB biomass pellet production, the following suggestions from successful EFB pellet plant investors should be considered:

  • Overall understanding of EFB pellet production line is necessary.
  • EFB pellet production procedures should meet the requirement of target markets.
  • Raw materials should be sufficient and should ensure the continuity of pellet production.
  • Quality of the raw materials should guaranteed. Raw materials with moisture content of 15%, is ideal while when it goes upper than 15%, the raw materials should be dried.
  • Location of the EFB pellet plant should be convenient for raw materials transportation.
  • A feasible survey is necessary to be conducted beforehand.

As for a typical EFB pellet production, it should consisted of EFBs shredding, drying, grinding, pelletizing, cooling, sieving, dust recycling and packing. The flowchart of the EFB pelletizing procedures are showing in the below picture.

Pelletizing procedures of EFB pellets
EFB pellet production procedure flowchart

 
Usually, in an entire EFB production line the following equipment are involved:
  • Electric cabinet( to control equipment in the whole EFB production line)
  • EFB shredder(to get EFB biomass into proper size for dryer)
  • Dryer(to get the moisture content ready for pelletizing)
  • Hammer mill ( to grind the proper sized and dried materials into power for pelletizing)
  • EFB pellet machine( to pelletize the prepared materials into pellets)
  • Cooler( to cooler down the newly extruded hot pellets and hard the pellets)
  • Packing machine( to bag EFB pellets according to requirements).


Case study

In the following, an EFB pellet plant line established for a Serbia EFB pellet manufacture is presented for your reference. Generally information about the EFB pellet plant are shown as follow:

  • Capacity :  4-5 ton / per hour
  • Raw Materials: EFB palm fiber powder
  • Main Equipment: Conveyor, dryer, cooler and EFB pellet machine
  • Pellet Specification Length: < 30mm, Diameter: 6, 8 & 10mm, Heat Energy:4000 kcal/kg, Carbon Content:13, Ash Content: 5, Moisture < 12%, Volatile Material: 75%

(Note: EFB biomass is features as high content of oil and water, high hardness and strong tenacity which make them to be pelletized. Therefore professional EFB pellet machines are used. )

EFB pellet plant overview
EFB complete pellet plant overview
 

efb palm fiber powdery efb dryer EFB pellet conveyor
EFB palm fiber powedery EFB dryer Conveyer in EFB pellet line
EFB pellet mill efb pellet cooling system efb pellets
EFB pellet machines Cooling system EFB pellets with good price

The EFB pellet production video is presented, hoping to help you to have a more general and direct understanding about EFB pellet plant and how EFB pellets are made from the palm fiber biomass.
 


EFB pellet line of Agico Group,the parent company of Gemco