MARANG, TERENGGANU, SEPTEMBER 27: The East Coast Economic Region (ECER)’s effort to promote the use of cellulosic feedstock from biomass at the Kertih BioPolymer Park (KBP) receives a major boost today with the planting of 40,000 seedlings of Leucaena Leucocephala or locally known as “Petai Belalang” here in Marang.

The “Petai Belalang” plant has been identified as a biomass cellulosic feedstock which will be used at the biorefinery complex in KBP. The “Petai Belalang” trees would be processed into wood chips, which will then be converted into advanced carbohydrates. The advanced carbohydrates will be processed further using biotechnology to produce various types of bioderivatives, including bio-isobutanol. Bio-isobutanol is an essential building block to downstream petrochemical industries and is widely used in solvents, paints, coatings, lubricants, rubber, bio-plastics, bio-fibre and other polymers.

For a start, 40,000 “Petai Belalang” seedlings will be planted on a 2-hectare area in the Merchang Forest Reserve in Marang to provide biomass supply for the biotechnology players in KBP. This development is also part of the Terengganu’s State Govenment’s initiative to allocate 30,000 hectares of land dedicated for the feedstock plantation that will produce 10.5 million tonnes of wood chips annually from the “Petai Belalang” plant.

Terengganu Menteri Besar, YAB Dato’ Seri Ahmad Said officiated the planting ceremony of the “Petai Belalang” trees at Merchang Forest Reserve here today. Also present at the event were ECERDC Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John and Director of the Terengganu State Forestry Department, Tuan Haji Azmi Nordin.

“The ‘Petai Belalang’ plantation marks a major milestone in the joint effort between ECERDC, Terengganu State Government and BiotechCorp to develop the first biorefinery in Malaysia which uses cellulosic feedstock to produce bioderivatives in KBP,” said Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John.

In addition, wood chips derived from the “Petai Belalang” trees can also be used as a green source of renewable energy. The wood chips will be fermented and turned into green energy in the form of syngas to produce steam, hence serving as an alternative to the traditional energy sources such as oil, gas and coal.

“The development of the biorefinery complex in KBP will encourage growth in new business opportunities and create new entrepreneurs in energy crop plantation and processing among the locals,” Dato’ Issace said.

In this regard, the Petai Belalang plantation project is expected to benefit some 3,000 smallholders with monthly potential additional income of RM2,500 per smallholder. The plantation of Petai Belalang will also help revitalise 9,300 ha of existing tree plantations in Terengganu, he added.

Slated to be operational by 2014, the biorefinery complex in KBP will utilise renewable energy from biomass as opposed to natural gas. The total project is expected to generate a cumulative GNI of RM 20.4 billion by 2020 and produce 2,500 green-jobs for Malaysia.

The 1,000 hectares biorefinery complex in KBP is expected to attract eight global industrial biotechnology players by 2015, with anticipated foreign direct investments (FDI) of around RM7 billion.

“The production of adequate renewable energy from biomass woodchips will ensure uninterrupted downstream operations at the complex and at the same time, help lower its carbon footprint,” he noted.

Dato’ Issace added that the Petai Belalang plantation will complement the various investment projects that are taking place in KBP, such as the RM2 billion investment by South Korea’s CJ CheilJedang Corporation and France’s ARKEMA to produce the world’s first green biotechnology-based L-methionine. Physical works for both CJ and Arkema plants in KBP have already started and operations are expected to come on stream by end-2013.

In addition, US-based biochemical company, Gevo Inc has executed a collaboration document with ECERDC, Terengganu State Government and Biotech Corp earlier in June for the development of the first bio-isobutanol from biomass manufacturing plant outside of the US in KBP.

“The implementation of these projects in KBP will help strengthen Malaysia’s position as the choice destination for biotechnology industry development in this region. This development will also help enhance the capabilities of local universities such as Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Universiti Darul Iman in the areas of high technology,” he noted.