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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Thai Oil plans to set up cassava based ethanol plant

We have earlier focused on cassava as an interesting bioenergy and biofuels crop. The main advantage of the starchy roots is that they thrive on undemanding, poor soils, and they grow outside of tropical rainforest areas. Especially in Africa, where cassava is a staple crop and very cheap to produce, the potential is huge. Nigeria's President Obasanjo personally initiated an ambitious cassava biofuel program, aimed at lifting thousands of small farmers out of poverty.
Today a Thai oil company announced that it will start up Thailand's first commercial cassava based ethanol plant. It is interesting to see someone taking a lead by using less wellknown energy crops as feedstock.

To cash in on the shortage of the local ethanol supply, Thai Oil Public Company Limited, one of the country’s giant refineries, plans to set up a large plant to produce the alternative fuel from cassavas, hoping to reduce the oil import.

Piti Yimprasert, the company’s president, said on Tuesday that Thai Oil had set a target to increase the production of gasohol because more Thai people had turned to save energy concretely and opted to consume gasohol, instead of premium gasoline.

To this end, the company has negotiated with strategic partners for a joint feasibility study on investing in the establishment of an ethanol plant, which counts on cassavas as a raw material for production, instead of molasses used by most existing ethanol plants.

He said the company had opted to produce ethanol from cassavas because it viewed there would be enough supply of the crop for the large ethanol plant.

More importantly, it could help local farmers earn more incomes, he noted.

Mr. Piti said the initial feasibility study found that the company should construct the plant with a daily production capacity of 1-2 million liters if it wants the plant to be commercially viable.

It is expected that the construction of the plant will require total investment of around US$150-250 million.

He said he was confident the local cassava supply would be enough for the production because the country had annually exported the product in a large amount.

The project would help increase the value-added to the farm output and boost revenue for the local farmers and the country.

He added that Thai Oil would accelerate studying the project in detail so that it could construct the plant to produce ethanol in an amount meeting the local demand sooner.

Thai News Agency.

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