The oil price in the world market keeps rising and Thailand itself needs to rely on imported fuel. Unavoidably, this situation affects to socio-economy directly of all levels of Thai citizens in the mean time the consumption rate rising and in the future where we can find the source of energy from.

The solution of the country to oil situation
Thailand has a few reserved energy sources. We have to concern of energy sustainability as an important issue, the strategy to prevent risk is to save energy, use renewable energy, increase efficiency of energy consumption. The policy determines to implement 3 measures simultaneously and in line with policy’s objective in 2011 to achieve an alternative energy consumption proportion of 8% from total energy consumption. In a few source of reserved energy in Thailand, biofuel has the most potential hence the government sets strategies to be more focused on biomass energy in which ethanol and biodiesel are the main source of biomass energy.

Raw material used for biodiesel production is oil plant such as oil palm, Jatropha curcus. As for ethanol we can produce it from starch plants such as sugarcane, cassava when using ti as an alternative energy from oil, it must mix biodiesel with diesel in the proportion of 10-20% to be able to compatible with diesel engine and general cars without any adjustment similarly to ethanol which has to be mixed with benzene in the proportion of 5-10% or known as gasohol to be able to compatible with general benzene engines.

The potential and biofuels development
The attempt of the government to push the implementation plan forward efficiently is very progressive. Having the committee of development and supporting biofuel as a policy makers and having private sector and people as partners. Ministry of Energy acts as a head project to control the roadmap, Energy Business Department is a unit for quality control and Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for area and oil plants plantation. Furthermore, there are some of educational institutions along with private companies to do a research. As Thailand has high potential to produce biofuel both from starch and oil plants to produce ethanol and oil plant to produce biodiesel. We set a high expectation in the implementation plan to use biofuel as an alternative energy replacing oil of 10% within 2011 by focusing on biodiesel and ethanol production as an important task in conclusion as the following.

  • - Developing ethanol production for 3 million liter and 4 million liter for biodiesel in 2012
  • - Encouraging the consumption of gasohol by setting its price to be lower than benzene for Bt. 3 and liberalization the market by using market mechanism (fortunately, there still no cancellation of benzene 95 yet)
  • - Supporting area expansion for oil palm plantation for 4 million Rais and developing other oil plants
  • - Supporting biodiesel production in both of large scale commercial and in local scale
  • - Supporting biodiesel consumption by started commercially sell in 2007 and will expand nationwide in 2011

As for biogas which is produced from animal waste and residues, government has not yet supported large scale production as the sources of raw material are scatter but having an experiment and demonstration in villages nationwide comparing with other successful countries such as China biogas fermented pond for 5 million ponds in which not only been produced for household consumption but also prevented disease and increased hygiene to local community and reduced deforestation as well. In USA and some countries in Western Europe, they have developed technology for large scale production of biogas at wastewater recycling station and waste-dumping area in municipality to be fuel for heating water.

From limited water and soil resources, what is the first priority between consumption or oil alternation.

As around the world is energy unsecured due partly to natural disaster, terrorism and economic competition, every countries are awake to search for new sources of energy to replace oil. High potential in agriculture like Thailand and Brazil are turning to biofuel production and plantation. There is a warning from academics in both of in and out of country that using agricultural products producing fuel is an inefficient use of resources as resources and energy input to produce biofuel is greater than output we gain or saying that we lose which is probably true when we count cost of natural resources and environment altogether in production process. Furthermore, the first and most priority we have to concern is to produce agricultural product to feed population.

As for Thailand, policy-leveled officer from Ministry of Energy explained that the Ministry itself has already though of this issue by planning to support into 2 levels, community level. Commercially, zoning has been set for oil plants and taken care of by Ministry of Agriculture to provide planting recommendation. Government policy gave the first priority for household consumption such as sugarcane planting; government considered production it for sugar, food and household use. As for molasses, government is allowed to use it for ethanol production and its residues will be used to produce fertilizer and wood fuel. In the first step government has set 4 million Rai of land for oil plant plantation for producing biodiesel. As for ethanol production, it is free to do so as plants for producing

ethanol are abundant in the country such as sugarcane, cassava, rice. Liberalization is a tool to broadly utilize those plants and create value added and boost up price as well. Currently, big company like PTT has invested billions of Baht in large scale but the way to exponential grow is not only the right direction but need to control and adjust plan to be in line with the situation as always and government must realize that planting only one kind of plant would affect the use of limited resource soil and water which have to be well-balanced allocate to other parts of manufacturing sectors and environment. There is a solution, if we can manage the use of inappropriate land for food planting and non-forestry area for planting fuel-oriented plants that might be an alternative for sustainably alternative energy however, this idea is based on a good management saying that government has to control this kind of plantation to be well proportion with the production for household use and to preserve the environment balancing all parties.

In community level, the reason that government encourages community production has an objective to help local people to have their own source of energy, technology development, know to adjust and create ways to govern themselves in decentralized way which is in line with sustainable economy. The center government performs as a supporter such as launching 1 district 1 biodiesel community campaign etc. having added-valued project by supporting research to be fully maximize parts of oil plant.

The Quality of biofuel and pollution emission
The quality of biodiesel and ethanol

Business Energy has the authorization to control the quality of biodiesel and ethanol which is commercially produced including engine proficiency testing with variety of mixture such as biodiesel mixed with 5%, 10% and 20% and analyzing oil qualification derived from various kinds of plant.

Community level production by using the residue in local area might have a problem of oil quality especially in case of using used oil for production, officer explained that government anticipated local community to use local resources, good management in water and soil resources and developing local wisdom to find ways to utilize it for their own purposes. Government doesn’t emphasize much about the quality such as it is used for agricultural engine which doesn’t require much quality in this case the company that producing engine can be a part of help by adjusting engine to be capable of fuel in a wider range. As for the educational institution such as Kasetsart University which opened KU-biodiesel center for providing suggestion and consulting about biodiesel quality testing that is locally community and farmer produced including opening the training session for general interest.

The environmental impact
Speaking of development and fuel consumption, it is unavoidably not talking about the environment impact but those impacts must be under control and compensable.

The issue of tangible environmental impact is to encourage large scale oil plant plantation as a single agriculture affecting to soil and water similarly with crop plantation so it has to have a proper watering system, preventing soil erosion and pesticide usage not to be harmful to the environment. The most important thing is to set zoning for plantation strictly which no impact to the forestry and preserved area and not intruding to the area for food plantation and has to set aside areas for rehabilitation in order to be a sustainable development and cause no crisis to other parts of the economy. As for pollutant emission of biofuel, both of biodiesel, gasohol or biogas when completely combusting, carbon dioxide and water will be produced by products as same as benzene and diesel but it produced less pollution as the combustion is more completed and contains less sulfur and contaminating substances.

In term of global warming, academics concern that biofuel plantation with good natural resources management without any disruption to the environment or other planting areas would eventually reduce the impact of global warming as the pollution released by biofuel combustion is less and cleaner than traditional fossil fuel and the gas will be absorbed back by trees and water plants which will

further reduce the volume of carbon dioxide leading to release less net carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere and eventually turns back to its balancing state.

The existing policies and strategies have some loophole to fix
However, it is not too easy to follow the policy considering country, economic benefits and social group as a whole. We have to concern the security of energy and energy consumption to drive economic growth to achieve the development target. In the mean time, we have to concern about the benefit of people, natural resources and environmental preservation.

Government has measures to encourage biodiesel and ethanol production and preservation as following

  • - Support investment via tax measure and BOI to attract more investors
  • - Support type of plants as raw materials to be more various.
  • - Support in both of community and large scale production.
  • - Support oil plant value added research to utilize the most out of plants
  • - Government policies provide an opportunity for people to participate not top down and centralized to strengthen community
  • - Public and private sectors cooperates resources management and preserve environment effectively

Project and research from both of Public and private sectors
Apart from fully support the production commercially, government also supports community level production and having independent energy projects such as the protocol project: community level energy at Suphanburi province which uses local agricultural product for energy production, 1 project 1 biodiesel district and project recycling used oil for biodiesel production etc.

In term of research, Kasetsart University has a project to experiment biodiesel from Jatropha curcus apart from oil palm, using other oil plants for biodiesel production including vegetable oil so there has to be testing and experimenting to ensure that what it can be used for. Considering all type of oil plants, seed of Jatropha curcus is quite interesting as it can be planted everywhere without high humidity and water unlike oil palm which is suitable for using heavy engine for agriculture which is beneficial to local community and in line with sustainable economy.

The research also includes oil plant value adding saying that using every elements of the plant for full benefit such as the best part of oil palm will be used in food and cosmetics production industry and the second part of it will be for biodiesel and its residue will be for pesticide production and bio-plastic from sugarcane, the best part of it will be made sugar and molasses will be made for ethanol and liquor, its residue will be made for solid fertilizer and particle board etc.

The possible anticipation
In the next 4 years, it is a time for us to watch the implemented strategies of biofuels that government has set as an alternative for us all. If the result turns positive as we expected without any adverse effect to the benefit of people and environment, this will be a great success for Thailand standing with her own sources of energy and less depending on oil import and can use the budget for improving the quality of life of Thai citizen.

Additional information
The total value of imported energy from foreign countries (oil, coal, natural gas and electricity) is Bt. 912,240 million (2006) by logistics consumption 36% agricultural consumption 5.3%, industrial consumption 38.2% and residential and commercial consumption 21%

- Biofuels or bio energy means the fuel produced from natural material such as plants or residues from both of plants and animal. There are many types of biofuel, biomass, ethanol, gasohol, biodiesel which are confusing to other people in term of using so we have to understand them first.

- Biomass is a mass of plants and animal residue holding together in a large amount. It usually used in the meaning of benefit of this type of fuel as fuel and fertilizer.

- Ethanol is a kind of alcohol derived from the fermentation of starch and sugar plants such as sugarcane, potato, cassava and rice when mixed with benzene in the proportion of about 5-10% will be resulted in alternative fuel replacing benzene called as gasohol. Mostly gasohol has better combustion and emitting less pollution to the environment than benzene.

- Biodiesel is s fuel produced from oil plants such as palm, Jatropha Curcus and coconut by processing biochemical mechanism to become organic substance-ester when mixed with the right proportion of diesel, it can be used with the diesel engine as same as gasohol in which releasing less pollution than diesel (no sulfur dioxide and carbon from incomplete combustion)

- Biogas is produced from biomass fermentation (animal residue and waste) without oxygen condition or in completely seal container. By doing this will be resulted in 60% methane component fuel. Methane is a high quality fuel with good combustion and less polluted but if this gas is in the atmosphere, it will trap the heat and cause the global warming 10 times greater than carbon dioxide.