4 minutes with… Douglas Furtek, Director, Operational Innovation, R&D, Teck Guan Group

February 2, 2015 |

imgresTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Teck Guan Group is a progressive multinational (Malaysia, China, Indonesia) oil palm plantation, palm oil mill, and oleochemical company. We are now converting our massive amounts of agricultural residues into biogas and liquid biofuels. The only oil palm empty fruit bunch- (EFB) fed pilot bioethanol plant anywhere is located on one of our mills.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

Like other major oil palm plantation and palm oil mill companies, Teck Guan produces hundreds of thousands mt lignocellulosic and liquid residue each year. We are now exploring uses for biomethane from anaerobic digesters on rural mills far from the grid. Although we are hosting a pilot bioethanol plant of Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding (MES) design and using INBICON pretreatment technology, we have not yet committed to commercialization. The problem is not with the excellent MES and INBICON design and technology, it is with low ethanol prices and the lack of bioethanol mandates here.

Sabah (North Borneo) has about 124 palm oil mills, together churning out millions mt residue. Solid biomass is aggregated and organized for one-stop-shopping. In addition, the Sabah state government operates a world-class industrial park with a deep water port. And the federal government offers attractive incentives for bioeconomy companies. Thus Sabah is a great place for the biofuel industry.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

1. Reducing the cost of producing cellulosic biofuels

2. Developing higher value biofuels than ethanol

3. Disproving the “You can make anything from lignin, except money” maxim!

4. Bioethanol mandates in Malaysia

5. Profitable small-scale technologies. Lower profit small-scale is better than higher profit large-scale over here.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

We want to see some of those advanced biofuel companies Biofuels Digest raves about start making money! In this part of the world, where government subsidies or fabulously wealthy venture capitalists to kick-start the Advanced Bioeconomy are in short supply, we need proven technologies. We cannot gamble like wealthier nations can.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

We can profit from our substantial amounts of biomass while helping to reduce global warming.

Our core values are to conduct mutually beneficial and ethical business practices based on honesty, integrity, and sustainability.

Let us not forget that biomass and biofuels are ultimately derived from the sun, a non-earth resource for everyone.

Where are you from? 

I am a proud American from the great city of Chicopee, Massachusetts, where I was raised. I have had the pleasure of living and working in the continuously-advancing, friendly, and peaceful country of Malaysia for the past 17 years.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

ever give up!

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Category: Million Minds

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