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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Sustainability of Palm Oil Biodiesel in Malaysia. A Gap Analysis

Oil palm was introduced into Malaysia in the 1900s but the seeds of the first palms arrived as ornamental plants as early as 1887. It was identified as an economic crop in 1903 and subsequently commercially exploited in 1917. From the small land area of oil palms cultivated in the early 1900s, Malaysia is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil.

Palm oil has charted new territory in its use after the 1997 Kyoto Conference on Climate Change, when some countries discovered its potential fuel use as a biodiesel. Biodiesel is the renewable fuel choice of the EU, and the EU is the largest producer of biodiesel in the world. Palm oil has been identified as the potential feedstock that can help the EU meet its renewable energy targets alongside other fuel crops like rapeseed. However, the added use of palm oil as fuel has also raised concerns about its long term sustainability, as well as its capacity to meet its obligations in other areas, especially food.

This dissertation attempts to investigate the sustainability issues surrounding palm oil biodiesel (POB) in Malaysia, through Gap Analysis (GA) and to identify the elements and areas for improvement that are essential for the sustainable development of the industry.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.