Biogas Taking a Bigger Role in Thailand's Energy Solutions

Suthep Liumsirijarern, director-general of the Energy Policy and Planning Office, said yesterday that the office had promoted biogas production from the wastes of the agricultural industry, wastewater from factories, and dung since 1995.

Developing alternative energy became part of the national policy spanning 2008-17, The Nation reports.

So far 543 livestock farms and 107 industrial factories have joined the project, saving the country Bt3.746 billion in crude-oil imports a year.

The policy also includes the promotion of energy plants to produce biogas and compressed biogas (CBG) to replace natural gas for vehicles (NGV) used in the transport industry.

The office has assigned the Energy Research and Development Institute-Nakornping at Chiang Mai University to research plants in Thailand and find those with potential to produce biogas.

One discovery was bana grass, which resembles sugar cane. The Lampang Elephant Conservation Centre purchases the grass from farmers at Bt1.20 per kilogram for elephant feed.

The research project can make CBG from bana grass at a cost of Bt16.50 a kilogram, which is higher than the Bt15 cost of making NGV.

If the government focused more on promoting CBG, it could lower the cost. Then jobs could be generated in rural communities and the occasional problem of a low supply of NGV in some areas in the upper North could be partially relieved, Suthep said.

One tonne of bana grass can yield 160-190 cubic metres of biogas. A planting area of 438 rai (70 hectares) is needed to produce enough biogas to generate 1 megawatt.

The office and Chiang Mai University are in talks on the possibility of launching a pilot project next year.

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