Multilevel optimisation for sustainable oil palm value chain development

Foong, Steve Zhi Yi (2020) Multilevel optimisation for sustainable oil palm value chain development. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The oil palm value chain is the series of value-adding processes and activities where raw material (i.e., fresh fruit bunch) is upgraded into final products such as refined oil, energy, biofertiliser, and dried fibres. The entire value chain consists of three major components, namely the plantation, processing, and supply chain, involving different stakeholders from major government bodies to minor private owners. In the industry, fresh fruit bunches harvested from the plantations are sent to palm oil mills for crude palm oil and palm kernels production. In the process, biomass (e.g., empty fruit bunches, palm kernel shells) and wastewater effluent, known as the palm oil mill effluent, are produced. In the current practise, biomass can be used as feedstock in palm-based biorefineries as well as combined heat and power systems, while palm oil mill effluent is treated with integrated biogas and wastewater treatment systems. On the other hand, palm kernels are sent to kernel crushing plant for crude palm kernel oil productions. Lastly, the crude oils produced are further processed in palm oil refineries before selling to the consumers. In this respect, the performance of every component in the value chain and their interactions with each other play a crucial role to achieve higher economic performance in the industry. However, the integration and optimisation of the entire oil palm value chain are difficult due to its enormous network structure and complexity. Besides, several barriers have hindered the development of oil palm value chain, such as operational uncertainties, cooperative partnerships, and information transparency within the industry.

This thesis presents a hierarchical approach to design an oil palm value chain with maximum economic performance. The proposed method consists of multiple levels, where mathematical approaches are introduced for process or system synthesis, optimisation, operation decision-making, and integration in each level. In the first level, individual systems or processes are optimised and analysed separately. Firstly, the oil palm plantation is optimised based on its economic performance where different fertilisation management and rainfall availability are taken into account. Next, synthesis and optimisation for the palm oil milling process are performed to yield the highest economic performance. Seasonal variations in feedstock supply and energy demand are considered for technology and design capacity selection with the incorporation of multi-period optimisation formulation in the model. Such an approach is then extended for the synthesis and optimisation of the integrated biogas and wastewater treatment system. Following that, a feasible operating range analysis is introduced to evaluate the performance and determine the bottleneck of the milling process synthesised for different design capacities. In the process, utilisation and flexibility indexes are identified to provide strategies and operational decisions in operating a palm oil mill.

In the second level, multiple processes are integrated to form an oil palm-based industrial symbiosis coalition. The interaction among processes for different coalition configurations are optimised in terms of economic performance, and their corresponding greenhouse gas emissions are evaluated. Subsequently, a multiple-processes feasible operating range analysis is presented to obtain the global feasible operation of the alliance formed. In the third level, an oil palm value chain to yield maximum economic performance is developed, considering spatial data and interconnectivity among different systems or processes within the industry. Collaboration reliability index is then introduced to measure the reliability of the value chain network formed, along with its corresponding economic performance under different supply chain management. Lastly, possible extensions and future opportunities for this research work are highlighted at the end of this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Lam, Hon Loong
Foo, Dominic Chwan Yee
Ng, Denny Kok Sum
Keywords: oil palm value chain, process systems engineering, mathematical optimisation, process synthesis, process integration
Subjects: T Technology > TP Chemical technology
Faculties/Schools: University of Nottingham, Malaysia > Faculty of Science and Engineering — Engineering > Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
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Item ID: 60196
Depositing User: Foong, Zhi
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2020 07:49
Last Modified: 12 May 2022 08:48

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