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USM trio turns waste into 'gold'
Sat, Feb 20, 2010
New Straits Times

Universiti Sains Malaysia is introducing its award-winning ViscoLigno, a chemically modified biopolymer that functions as a drilling mud gelling and viscosifying agent. Standing out from other more commonly used additives in mud drilling, the ViscoLigno is made of oil palm waste.

Its inventor, USM Chemical Sciences School lecturer Associate Professor Mohamad Nasir Mohamad Ibrahim, said ViscoLigno would prevent the soil from collapsing during the drilling process.

He said the substance would also allow soil residue to rise to the surface, allowing the drill to go deeper into the earth without getting stuck.

Nasir said the ViscoLigno also acted as a corrosion retardant for drill string and drilling equipment, minimising the use of extra chemicals while drilling and in turn reducing environmental risks and operation cost.

He said the ViscoLigno was also cheaper to produce than other additives, as it was derived from plants.

"The lignin that is used to create the ViscoLigno can be obtained from the paper industry, which discards the substance in its pulping process.

"Therefore, ViscoLigno is cheaper to produce and the production cost for one kilogramme is RM116 (S$48) , compared with RM435.51 for CMC, RM682.49 for xanthane and RM1012.50 for guar gum."

Nasir said he hoped those in the gas and petroleum industry in Malaysia would come forward to give their feedback on the ViscoLigno.

He said if drilling operations could become cheaper due to the use of the environmentally friendly biopolymer, oil could also be less costly.

He said USM had filed for the invention to be patented locally and internationally.

"We are ready for the market and are waiting to find a partner to produce it on a larger scale."

He added that the research for the invention took two years to complete under the university's RM40,000 short-term grant scheme.

The ViscoLigno also won a gold medal at the Malaysian Technology Expo 2010 earlier this month in Kuala Lumpur.

It was also awarded a special award by the Zagreb Inventors Association at the expo.

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