Carbon Black: Promise and Potential

Carbon Black is a commercial form of solid carbon that is manufactured in highly controlled processes to produce specifically engineered aggregates of carbon particles that vary in particle size, aggregate size, shape, porosity and surface chemistry. Carbon Black typically contains more than 95 % pure carbon with minimal quantities of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

In the manufacturing process, Carbon Black particles range from 10 nm to approximately 500 nm in size. These fuse into chain-like aggregates, which define the structure of individual Carbon Black grades.

What is Carbon Black

Carbon Black is used in a diverse group of materials in order to enhance their physical, electrical and optical properties. Its largest volume use is as a reinforcement and performance additive in rubber products.

In rubber compounding, natural and synthetic elastomers are blended with Carbon Black, elemental sulphur, processing oils and various organic processing chemicals, and then heated to produce a wide range of vulcanized rubber products. In these applications, Carbon Black provides reinforcement and improves resilience, tear-strength, conductivity and other physical properties.

Carbon Black is the most widely used and cost effective rubber reinforcing agent (typically called Rubber Carbon Black) in tire components (such as treads, sidewalls and inner liners), in mechanical rubber goods (“MRG”), including industrial rubber goods, membrane roofing, automotive rubber parts (such as sealing systems, hoses and anti-vibration parts) and in general rubber goods (such as hoses, belts, gaskets and seals).

Applications of Carbon Black

Besides rubber reinforcement, Carbon Black is used as black pigment and as an additive to enhance material performance, including conductivity, viscosity, static charge control and UV protection. This type of Carbon Black (typically called Specialty Carbon Black) is used in a variety of applications in the coatings, polymers and printing industries, as well as in various other special applications.

Actually, after oil removal and ash removal processing from tire pyrolysis, we can get high-purity commercial carbon black, which can be used to make color master batch, color paste, oil ink and as addictive in plastic and rubber products. Besides, after activation treatment, the carbon black will become good materials to produce activated carbon.

In the coatings industry, treated fine particle Carbon Black is the key to deep jet black paints. The automotive industry requires the highest black intensity of black pigments and a bluish undertones.

Carbon Black has got a wide array of applications in different industries

Small particle size Carbon Blacks fulfill these requirements. Coarser Carbon Blacks, which offer a more brownish undertone, are commonly used for tinting and are indispensable for obtaining a desired grey shade or color hue.

In the polymer industry, fine particle Carbon Black is used to obtain a deep jet black color. A major attribute of Carbon Black is its ability to absorb detrimental UV light and convert it into heat, thereby making polymers, such as polypropylene and polyethylene, more resistant to degradation by UV radiation from sunlight. Specialty Carbon Black is also used in polymer insulation for wires and cables. Specialty Carbon Black also improves the insulation properties of polystyrene, which is widely used in construction.

In the printing industry, Carbon Black is not only used as pigment but also to achieve the required viscosity for optimum print quality. Post-treating Carbon Black permits effective use of binding agents in ink for optimum system properties. New Specialty Carbon Blacks are being developed on an ongoing basis and contribute to the pace of innovation in non-impact printing.

Biomass Energy in Indonesia

With Indonesia’s recovery from the Asian financial crisis of 1998, energy consumption has grown rapidly in past decade. The priority of the Indonesian energy policy is to reduce oil consumption and to use renewable energy. For power generation, it is important to increase electricity power in order to meet national demand and to change fossil fuel consumption by utilization of biomass wastes. The development of renewable energy is one of priority targets in Indonesia.

It is estimated that Indonesia produces 146.7 million tons of biomass per year, equivalent to about 470 GJ/y. Sources of biomass energy in Indonesia are scattered all over the country, but the biggest potential in concentrated scale can be found in the Island of Kalimantan, Sumatera, Irian Jaya and Sulawesi. Studies estimate the electricity generation potential from the roughly 150 Mt of biomass residues produced per year to be about 50 GW or equivalent to roughly 470 GJ/year. These studies assume that the main source of biomass energy in Indonesia will be rice residues with a technical energy potential of 150 GJ/year. Other potential biomass sources are rubber wood residues (120 GJ/year), sugar mill residues (78 GJ/year), palm oil residues (67 GJ/year), and less than 20 GJ/year in total from plywood and veneer residues, logging residues, sawn timber residues, coconut residues, and other agricultural wastes.

Sustainable and renewable natural resources such as biomass can supply potential raw materials for energy conversion. In Indonesia, they comprise variable-sized wood from forests (i.e. natural forests, plantations and community forests that commonly produce small-diameter logs used as firewood by local people), woody residues from logging and wood industries, oil-palm shell waste from crude palm oil factories, coconut shell wastes from coconut plantations, as well as skimmed coconut oil and straw from rice cultivation.

The major crop residues to be considered for power generation in Indonesia are palm oil sugar processing and rice processing residues. Currently, 67 sugar mills are in operation in Indonesia and eight more are under construction or planned. The mills range in size of milling capacity from less than 1,000 tons of cane per day to 12,000 tons of cane per day. Current sugar processing in Indonesia produces 8 millions MT bagasse and 11.5 millions MT canes top and leaves. There are 39 palm oil plantations and mills currently operating in Indonesia, and at least eight new plantations are under construction. Most palm oil mills generate combined heat and power from fibres and shells, making the operations energy self –efficient. However, the use of palm oil residues can still be optimized in more energy efficient systems.

Other potential source of biomass energy can also come from municipal wastes. The quantity of city or municipal wastes in Indonesia is comparable with other big cities of the world. Most of these wastes are originated from household in the form of organic wastes from the kitchen. At present the wastes are either burned at each household or collected by the municipalities and later to be dumped into a designated dumping ground or landfill. Although the government is providing facilities to collect and clean all these wastes, however, due to the increasing number of populations coupled with inadequate number of waste treatment facilities in addition to inadequate amount of allocated budget for waste management, most of big cities in Indonesia had been suffering from the increasing problem of waste disposals.

The current pressure for cost savings and competitiveness in Indonesia’s most important biomass-based industries, along with the continually growing power demands of the country signal opportunities for increased exploitation of biomass wastes for power generation.

Agricultural Biomass in Malaysia

Malaysia is located in a region where biomass productivity is high which means that the country can capitalize on this renewable energy resource to supplements limited petroleum and coal reserves. Malaysia, as a major player in the palm oil and sago starch industries, produces a substantial amount of agricultural biomass waste which present a great opportunity for harnessing biomass energy in an eco-friendly and commercially-viable manner.

Peninsular Malaysia generates large amounts of wood and’ agricultural residues, the bulk of which are not being currently utilised for any further downstream operations. The major agricultural crops grown in Malaysia are rubber (39.67%), oil palm (34.56%), cocoa (6.75%), rice (12.68%) and coconut (6.34%). Out of the total quantity of residues generated, only 27.0% is used either as fuel for the kiln drying of timber, for the manufacture of bricks, the curing of tobacco leaves, the drying rubber-sheets and for the manufacture of products such as particleboard and fibreboard. The rest has to be disposed of by burning.

Palm Oil Industry

Oil palm is one of the world’s most important fruit crops. Malaysia is one of the largest producers and exporter of palm oil in the world, accounting for 30% of the world’s traded edible oils and fats supply. Palm oil industries in Malaysia have good potential for high pressure modern power plants and the annual power generation potential is about 8,000 GWh. Malaysia produced more than 20 million tonnes of palm oil in 2012 over 5 million hectares of land.

The palm oil industry is a significant branch in Malaysian agriculture. Almost 70% of the volume from the processing of fresh fruit bunch is removed as waste in the form of empty fruit bunches (EFBs), fibers and shells, as well as liquid effluent. Fibres and shells are traditionally used as fuels to generate power and steam. Effluents are sometimes converted into biogas that can be used in gas-fired gensets.

Sugar Industry

The cultivation of sugarcane in Malaysia is surprisingly small. Production is concentrated in the Northwest extremity of peninsular Malaysia in the states of Perlis and Kedah. This area has a distinct dry season needed for cost-efficient sugarcane production. Plantings in the states of Perak and Negri Sembilan were unsuccessful due to high unit costs as producing conditions were less suitable.

The lack of growth in cane areas largely reflects the higher remuneration received by farmers for other crops, especially oil palm. Over the past 20 years while the sugarcane area has remained at around 20 000 hectares, that planted to oil palm has expanded from 600 000 hectares to 5 million hectares.

Other leading crops in terms of planted areas are rubber with 2.8 million hectares, rice with 670 000 hectares and cocoa with 380 000 hectares. Malaysia, the world’s third largest rubber producer, accounted for 1 million tons of natural rubber production in 2012. Like oil palm industry, the rubber industry produces a variety of biomass wastes whose energy potential is largely untapped until now.