Mission announces spent bleached earth processing facility

By Erin Voegele | November 21, 2011

Mission NewEnergy Ltd. has announced the construction of a new waste processing facility in Sandakan, Sabah Malaysia. The facility will allow Mission to recover palm oil from spent bleached earth (SBE), which is a waste material in the palm oil refining process.

According to James Garton, president of Mission NewEnergy USA, fresh fruit bunches sourced from palm plantations are generally run through a milling process to extract the oil. “Bleached earth is a filter medium that is used extensively in this refining process to remove impurities, including metals, gums and color,” Garton said. “After a certain volume of oil has passed through, the BE is no longer effective and is discarded into landfill as a waste materials. This spent bleached earth absorbs a considerable amount of residual refined palm oil.”

Mission notes that producing biodiesel from this nonfood grade waste palm oil will provide the company with access to lower cost feedstock, increasing overall margins. The new facility will also reduce landfill waste and allow the production of biodiesel with significant greenhouse gas saving attributes.

To extract the oil from the SBE, Garton said the waste material is run through a solvent extraction plant. “This is not a proprietary technology,” he said. “The configuration is unique to this application utilizing a specific chemical solvent.”

Construction on the new SBE extraction facility is expected to begin in January with full operation anticipated by September. Once complete, the plant will be able to recover an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the oil contained in the SBE. According to Garton, the facility will be capable of producing an estimated 10,000 tons of oil per year.

“The resulting waste oil is ideally suited as feedstock for [Mission’s] existing biodiesel refineries,” Garton said. “Mission would convert the oil into biodiesel at either of its two biodiesel refineries in Malaysia.”

According to Mission, it has secured agreements and understandings with almost all the palm oil refiners in the State of Sabah to provide a supply of SBE to the facility, and it has received all necessary sanctions from government authorities including the Department of the Environment.

 Mission has selected a proven technology provider for this project while the actual construction of the plant and civil works are expected to be done through local Sabah companies. The facility, which will cost $10 million, will be funded with equity and debt from a Malaysian commercial bank. Financial closure is expected to occur by the end of December.  


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