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Can we use palm EFB fiber for pulp and paper?

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Jul 30, 2021

The pulp and paper industry is developed rapidly with the increasing world population, in addition to improved literacy and quality of life worldwide. The global production of pulp and paper is expected to reach 466 million tonnes by the year 2030, while in the year 2020 it was 399 million tonnes. In southeast Asia, one of the abundant non-wood materials for pulp and paper production is the empty fruit bunch(EFB) from the oil palm. The EFB is the main fibrous residue and natural fiber which has promising potential as an alternative to replace woody materials.

Why shall we use palm EFB fiber to make pulp and paper?

The continuous availability of EFB provides opportunities as an alternative non-wood material of pulp and paper as well as being relevant solutions to overcome the shortage of non-wood fiber sources.
1. Palm EFB can be a good alternative to non-wood pulping fiber, is virtually affordable, and is available all year round.

The EFB is simultaneously available along with the development of the palm oil industry. It is a promising alternative to use as fiber resources in the field of pulp and paper making. The development of paper production has led to the high demand for fibre, generating additional concern on the utilization of oil palm EFB for papermaking processes

Global palm oil production in the year 2020 is 74.02 Million MT. Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, takes up 58% of the world's palm oil production. Following by Malaysia takes up 26% of world palm oil production. The third-largest palm oil producer in Thailand takes up 4% of the world's palm oil production.  To produce one MT of palm oil, nearly one MT of EFB is left. That is, in the year 2020, the above three countries produce 65.14 Million MT of oil palm EFB.


2. The morphological properties shows that palm EFB fiber can be a good choice to produce paper.


The morphological properties revealed that the EFB fibre has a similar feature for the short-fibre hardwoods like eucalyptus. The long and short palm EFB fibres are cylindrical with gradual tapering ends. The EFB fibres include short fibres to moderate, i.e., between 1-2 mm in diameter while including a group of small to medium diameter (2 to 2.5 μm). The oil palm EFB fibres have a thicker cell wall compared to the wood fibres, resulting in a noticeably higher rigidity index. Hence, the oil palm EFB would be a better choice to produce paper in high bulk with their thick cell wall which is accountable for the excellent tearing resistance.

3. The chemical compositions of EFB fibers shows it has the potential to be used as raw material for pulp and paper.


The chemical compositions of EFB fibers are mostly composed of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose. The cellulose content of EFB fiber is around OF 41.1%, hemicellulose (14.6%-29.4%), lignin(22.7%-31.7%), and extractives (1.34%-3.30%).The content of cellulose almost equal to the cellulose content of wood fiber (38%-49%), bamboo(26%-43%) and bagasse (32%-44%).16) Hence, the EFB fibers have good potential to be used as raw material for pulp and paper
To make the palm EFB into pulp is currently a very small business in Southeast Asia, but we also see great potential. Governments and some pioneer companies in Southeast Asai have made many types of research for how to make pulp and paper from oil palm EFB fiber. We once worked together with one of Thailand's clients in the year 2014, offered a palm EFB fiber-making machine for their pilot palm fiber pulping system. Indonesia produced EFB-based paper products including printed papers and cement bags to reduce the import of waste paper using the EFB fiber through semi-chemical pulping.

How to make palm fiber as pulping fiber

√ The first step involving the paper making was handling the oil palm EFB fibers. The EFB fibres are extracted from the bunches by a palm fibre making machine.

√ After screening and drying, clean and high quality palm long fibre is available now.

√ The long palm EFB fibers are cut into short fiber usually less than 30mm.

√ Semi-chemical pulping was performed using a 50 % concentration of sodium hydroxide solution as the digestion chemical solvent for processing oil palm EFB pulp. The digestion temperature was maintained at 92 °Ct through indirect heating with saturated steam.

√ After the pulping process, the oil palm EFB pulp was washed and refined in a refiner. The mixture of EFB pulp with other additives such as titanium dioxide and clay was diluted into the headbox of the paper equipment to adjust the optical properties of the papermaking.

The success of such a process could have a remarkable impact on the palm oil industry as well as the pulp and paper industry, economically and environmentally.

Our company has supplied the palm EFB fiber making machine ( view machine details ), and palm EFB fiber cutter (view machine details) for using palm EFB fiber for pulp and paper.

To make EFB pulp, step one :the EFB fibres are extracted from the bunches by a palm fibre making machine.

To make palm fiber as pulping fiber, the long palm EFB fibers are cut into short fiber.

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