Best corporate sustainability related to Waste Management (MSA’12)

Winner of the MSA’12 Best Corporate Sustainability related to Waste Management category, Bell Group of Companies is an established palm oil milling company with upstream processing of crude palm oil and downstream manufacturing of soaps, toiletries, skincare, haircare and cosmetic products.

The Group processes about 2.5 million m/t of fresh fruit bunches annually, equivalent to 100,000 hectares of oil palm plantation.  They own and operate 7 palm oil mills in Malaysia and one in Indonesia.

In 2006, Bell Group created a paradigm shift from an independent Palm Oil Miller to a Green Independent Power Producer, applying technology to biomass and biogas digeston which revolutionised the palm oil industry.

Bell Eco Power undertook the combined biogas and biomass power project for renewable energy, the first CDM certified independent green power plant in the palm oil industry.

The main objective of the Bell project was the conversion of waste to energy whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

The project had two GHG reduction components:
1.  Prevention of methane emissions by treating Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) in closed anaerobic digesters and,
2.  By supplying renewable energy to a grid which is fed predominantly by fossil fuels.

The extraction of crude palm oil from the fresh fruit bunches produces huge quantities of waste, both solid (empty fruit bunches, palm shell and fiber) and liquid POME.  POME is highly acidic and has a very high biochemical oxygen demand, thus needs to be treated first before it can be safely discharged.

85% of palm oil millers in Malaysia solely use pond systems due to low cost and ease of operation to handle POME.  While this is regarded as a more economically viable alternative to mechanical desludging, it means that POME is still one of the country’s major sources of acquatic pollution and the cause of considerable environmental problems due to the methane gas related into the atmosphere with the utilization of the open pond system.

In the wake of environmental challenges that are linked to the palm oil industry, and in order to work together with international organizations on global climate issues, Bell pushed beyond their industry’s boundaries to aim for zero carbon footprints and zero waste.

Using a variety of energy technologies available, they operate their facilities efficiently to recover the energy stored in the waste obtained from the palm oil milling process.  They installed new enclosed anaerobic digesters in their mill.  These tanks are used to recover methane from the POME and the gas is utilized for electricity generation thereby recovering biogas and reducing green house gas emissions.  This allows Bell to supply renewable energy to the national grid.

The entrapment of methane from POME is not the only source of renewable energy they supply.  The huge quantity of solid waste is also an important contributor.  Traditionally, the solid waste (consisting of palm kernal shell, mesocarp fiber and empty fruit bunch fibers) are used as fuel for boilers which supply steam for the mill.

At Bell’s biomass plant, they use the steam to generate renewable energy which is supplied to the national grid.  The solid waste (ash) resulting from the combustion of the fuel in the boiler is then used as fertilizer and the gaseous waste is treated to be environmentally compatible before being released into the atmosphere.

This means that the palm oil milling sector is not only able to achieve maximization of revenue and zero waste control, it has the capability to establish an integrated value added downstream industry which utilizes steam and power from the co-generation plant for high value activities.

Unwanted waste has now become essential income generators.  The liquid and solid waste from palm oil production can be used as a consistent, non – contaminated feedstock for both Biogas & Biomass Green Power Plants.  Palm oil mills can be transformed into Green Independent Power Plants and operated as a Center of Energy Efficiency.

In upgrading their palm oil mill into a green power producing center, Bell also contributed the following social, economic and environmental benefits, as well as technological benefits:
Social benefits
* Providing new employment opportunities for the local population
* Increasing local businesses such as transportation, maintenance, parts supplies, food and other services
* Improving the technical skill sets of the staff in the plant

Economic & Environmental benefits
* Decreasing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels
* Improving the local economic activity

Technological benefits
* Working in tandem to meet Malaysia’s Ninth Plan target of 350 MW from renewable energy
* Establishing an efficient, higher energy generation system than that currently being used in the palm oil industry locally

Ultimately, the judges in this category chose Bell as the winner based on the overall potential waste impact while also taking into consideration the strength of the Malaysian participation.


For more information about the Malaysian Dutch Business Council (MDBC) and the MDBC Sustainability Awards 2013 (MSA’13), please have a look on our website ( or Facebook Page (

Also have a look in the MSA Magazine supplements of the years 2012 and 2011 for photos, judges, short listed companies and the winners.

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