Kuala Lumpur – A group of graduating students in Bachelor of Chemical Process Engineering at Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT) won the Best Final Year Design Award. The award was organised by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Palm Oil Processing Special Interest Group (POPSIG). The award ceremony took place at Monash University Malaysia on 17 June 2019, in conjunction with IChemE POPSIG’s Technical Talk, “The Truth about Oil Palm: Palm Oil Milling Initiatives”.

The group was selected by the department’s design committee to represent MJIIT for this competition based on their Final Year Plant Design (Capstone) Project. The group proposed a new technology for palm oil processing using subcritical water hydrolysis and supercritical methanol treatment process. The title of the design project was “Production of Biodiesel using Subcritical Water and Supercritical Methanol Treatment”. The team consisted of 5 members, which were Agasthya Alwi A/L Mohanan, Janet Anne, Noor Aniszan binti Nazaruddin, Nur ‘Amirah binti Husaini, and Nur Syafinaz binti Zaizul Akmar. The team was supervised by Dr Nurfatehah Wahyuny binti Che Jusoh and Dr Norhuda binti Abdul Manan. The students submitted their full reports for evaluation of this award, which included chemical background study, market survey, process route selection, process synthesis, manual calculation and simulation of mass and energy balance, process control, process safety and plant layout design.

The winning Team of IChemE POPSIG Best Final Year Design Award 2019


The Prize Giving Ceremony was attended by: [from right] Dr Norhuda (Co-Supervisor), Dr Roshafima (Head of Department) and [from left] Dr Liew (Coordinator), Ir Qua (POPSIG Founding Chairperson)

The team representatives in the ceremony: Mr Agasthya and Ms Nur ‘Amirah


Project Summary 

Biodiesel is defined as a biological oil; a renewable alternative fuel that has a cleaner burning for diesel engines. Biodiesel, or specifically mono alkyl esters are produced by using domestic and agricultural co-products as feedstocks. In this project, palm oil was used as the feedstock to produce biodiesel as palm diesel could result in reductions of carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM), and unburned hydrocarbons. Subcritical water and supercritical methanol method were chosen for the production of biodiesel in our plant due to the high yields of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). This combination method is known as the two-step Saka-Dadan method which involves the hydrolysis of palm oil in subcritical water (T = 270˚C, P = 7 MPa), followed by methyl esterification of fatty acids in supercritical methanol (T = 270˚C, P = 10 MPa). The kinetics of hydrolysis and esterification of methyl ester for biodiesel production in the two-step supercritical methanol allows the operating reaction conditions to be lowered to moderate conditions as compared to the one step process (supercritical methanol only). This method is environmentally friendly since no catalyst is used in the process. This effectively eliminates the problems related to soap formation which currently plagues the conventional biodiesel production process. The biodiesel in our plant is produced at a yield of 73.89% with 97.87% purity which fulfills the requirement of Malaysia Standard for Automotive Fuels – Palm Methyl Esters (PME) for diesel engines which demands at least 96.5% purity. Therefore, the production of biodiesel by using this method is greener and more efficient as compared to current methods.