What started as a collaboration between undergraduate Hana Fancher and former PhD students Phil Taylor and Will Wieder is expanding into new worlds. As Phil dug further into the world of palm oil development and energy, he became interested in quantifying (at larger scales) both the environmental impacts of uncaptured and unregulated waste streams, and of the potential to do better. The processing of palm oil involves concentrating a remarkable amount of organic matter into a small area, much of which then enters waste streams such as those shown on the right. That waste stream, in turn, produces some of the highest methane emissions ever recorded – a problem for the climate and atmospheric chemistry, but also a potential source of bioenergy if properly captured. But for now, as Phil has shown through a recent data synthesis, most of those methane emissions go uncaptured, and they are rising rapidly as the palm industry continues to expand.
To make a long story (he’ll tell here later) short, Phil’s work on synthesizing methane emissions from palm oil waste streams has led to his inclusion in this week’s General Assembly for the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, held in Kuala Lumpur. And Phil will stick around in Malaysia for an extra week to work with palm industry reps on better ways to quantify and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions. Good stuff.