Converting palm oil waste to useful products


    To celebrate the University's research successes, the University of Hull is offering, in an open competition, up to 80 full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship or International Fees Bursaries. The below project is eligible for funding under this Scholarship scheme.

    Studentships will start on 28th September 2015

    This is an outstanding opportunity for the right individual to gain experience and expertise in a very important and rapidly growing field. The successful candidate will develop new technologies for the production of biodiesel from Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) as well as develop a GIS database for palm oil waste.

    The oil palm industry is the second largest commercial sector in the Malaysian economy (after oil and gas). 90% of the harvested material goes to waste and only 10% to palm oil. Hence, in 2010 the industry generated around 80 million tonnes of biomass residue from 423 mills. This quantity represents a sizeable opportunity to produce sustainable products on an industrial scale and simultaneously to dispose of this residue in an environmentally acceptable manner.

    The waste stream that is most harmful to the environment and difficult to dispose of is Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) which is produced as a result of processing the palm oil fruits. Currently this is diluted and put into rivers. There are existing processes to extract fatty acids from POME and convert it to biodiesel and glycerine [1]. However, these use hexane and methanol in alkaline solution which is harmful and also not practical as a small-scale mill-based process. Hence we aim to produce a single stage, solid catalyst process to take the POME direct to these two highly valuable materials. The biodiesel can be used directly by mill vehicles and the glycerine sold for pharmaceutical and other purposes. We have already developed a similar process based on coffee waste [2], [3] obtaining encouraging results.

    As well as this core experimental programme, a detailed GIS database of all palm oil waste streams in Borneo will be assembled. This will include quantities, composition and distribution of these materials e.g. empty fruit bunch (EFB) oil palm trunks (OPT) and oil palm fronds (OPF). We will assess existing processing technologies available to deal with these materials in terms of products formed, potential yields, and selectivity. The GIS will allow also optimization of the location of collection points, processing and energy generation facilities, grid connectivity and other infrastructure. In the case of POME it will also highlight areas most susceptible to environmental pollution.

    Eligibility

    In order to qualify for this scholarship you will require an undergraduate degree with at least a 2.1 and Masters, or equivalent in a relevant subject.

    PhD students at the University of Hull follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.

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    Benefits

    Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU’ student rate and maintenance (£13,863 in 2014/15) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

    Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.

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