Students get insights into palm oil industry from POPSIG university roadshow hosted by Curtin Malaysia IChemE Student Chapter

Miri – 25 October 2021 – The IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) Student Chapter of Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) recently hosted the IChemE Palm Oil Processing Interest Group (POPSIG) East Malaysia University Roadshow in collaboration with the Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak IChemE Student Chapter and IChemE POPSIG.

The online event saw the participation of over 150 students from Curtin Malaysia, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS), Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) and Institut Teknologi dan Sains Bandung (ITBS), Indonesia.

The event featured invited speakers from industry and academia comprising Dr. Viknesh Andiappan (Deputy Chair of IChemE POPSIG and Associate Professor at Herriot Watt University Malaysia), Galau Melayong (Head of Sustainability, Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad), Prasath Ramani (Industry Technology Specialist at Novozymes) and Vicky Chia (Senior Executive at Science, Environmental and Sustainability Division, Malaysia Palm Oil Council).

The forum session panellists, meanwhile, comprised Ir. Tian Foon Howe (Senior Mill Manager, MJM (Palm Oil Mill) Sdn. Bhd.) and Ir. Shyam Lakshmanan (General Manager, IOI Edible Oils Sabah).

Dean of Curtin Malaysia’s Faculty of Engineering and Science, Professor Tuong-Thuy Vu, said in his opening speech that though hosting an online event had its inherent technical challenges, it also had its advantages in allowing more people to participate remotely.

He thanked the organisers, invited speakers and panellists, and participants for making the event a success and expressed hopes it would spur more university-industry collaboration to advance the palm oil industry.

In his speech, Dr. Viknesh introduced the IChemE POPSIG, including its objectives of sharing and promoting best practices, encouraging innovation in the processing oil palm products, promoting the professional aspects of the palm oil industry, and acting as a focal point for those interested in different aspects of oil palm processing.

In his talk entitled ‘The Role of Chemical Engineers in the Palm Oil Industry’, Prasath talked about the processes involved in palm oil processing, the integration and application of chemical engineering knowledge in those processes, and some of the challenges faced by the palm oil industry.

To showcase Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad, Galau screened a video on the company and conducted a virtual site visit of its palm oil processing mill, in addition to giving a presentation on the oil palm industry’s value chain. He also highlighted the fact that, while palm oil is widely regarded as an industrial crop, it is also a valuable smallholder crop in Sarawak.0

Chia’s talk, meanwhile, included an overview of palm oil, its nutrients and other beneficial derivatives and their application in food products. She also presented data that showed that when palm oil is incorporated into the daily human diet, the total fats consumed are within recommended cholesterol levels according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia (RNI).

The topics discussed during the panellist sessions included the palm oil industry’s recovery plan following COVID-19, palm oil industry and POPSIG green initiatives, initiatives undertaken by the palm oil industry to address current challenges, typical roles of process and plant engineers in the plant oil industry, and the European Union’s plans to ban palm oil.

According to the event organising chairperson, final-year chemical engineering student Evane Serrah June Gani, the event was a great success, providing the participating students valuable insights into the palm oil industry. It also helped to dispel some of the common misconceptions about palm oil.

The event ended with an online quiz with questions based on the topics of the talks. Each of the winners, four from each university, received a RM50 cash prize.

Screen capture of students attending the IChemE POPSIG East Malaysia University Roadshow.

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