Ingenieur Vol. 75 ingenieur July 2018-FA - Page 59

Energy from Biomass through Microbial Cell Factory: A Scientific Perspective By Dr Ku Syahidah Ku Ismail Dr Huzairy Hassan Ir. Dr Ayob Katimon Centre of Excellence for Biomass Utilisation School of Bioprocess Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Perlis A s a developed nation based on agriculture, Malaysia needs to step up efforts to optimise its agricultural waste industry. Millions of tons of agricultural waste, either in the form of straw and husk from rice, stems, fronds and palm leaves from palm oil trees, fruit skins such as pineapple, mango, corn and so forth are produced annually. Based on basic bioprocesses and chemical engineering principles, agricultural waste in the form of biomass has the potential to be processed into new energy sources to support conventional oil and gas-based energy sources. The dependence on oil and gas based energy has to be reduced and at the same time agricultural waste needs to be beneficially materialised as a measure of alternative energy in addition to pollution control. This article scientifically introduces the ability to convert agricultural biomass into energy through a sequential methodology called a microbial cell factory. From Raw Biomass Materials to Liquid Fuel Ethanol In many applications, crude oil-derived fuel displaced coal and has long since dominated as a transport fuel. Recently, concerns have grown over whether oil reserves have the capacity to service growing demand. Oil reserves that provide liquid fuels today will only have the capacity to cater to half of global demand by 2023. Not only that, most of the reserves are located in unstable regions of the world. In addition, we are faced with greater environmental consequences if the energy usage pattern is not changed. There are mounting concerns on the build-up of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere which trap heat that usually radiates from the earth, causing global climate change. As an alternative, bioethanol - ethyl alcohol (C 2 H 5 OH), has been used as a modern biofuel. It is commonly blended with gasoline in concentrations of 10% ethanol to 90% gasoline, known as E10 and nicknamed ‘gasohol’. It can also be used as a 5% blend with petrol which does not require engine modification. Thus, biofuels such as ethanol provide a more feasible technology than other renewable energy sources because it can serve immediately as a substitute for petroleum products in transportation. Also, the use of bioethanol-blended fuel for automobiles significantly reduces petroleum use and also reduces GHG emission. Consumption of fuel ethanol is expected to average 950,000 barrels per day in 2018 and 2019, up from 940,000 barrels per day in 2017 (Energy Information Administration, 2018). USA and Brazil are the current leaders in world bioethanol production which utilises starch from corn and sugarcane 57