St1 inks MoU for bioethanol project in Thailand
St1, a Finnish energy company, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Ubon Bio Ethanol to launch a pilot project of the production of bioethanol from cassava waste, with the aim of setting up a joint venture for ethanol production in Thailand.
Thailand is a forerunner in use of renewable energy. The country uses over 3 million litres of ethanol per day as transport fuel, and the Thai government plans to raise consumption to 11.3 million litres per day by 2036.
St1 is a pioneer in non-food, waste- and residue-based ethanol production and production technologies. The company’s production technology is currently being used in Finland and Sweden. So far company’s ethanol production feedstocks consist of food industry waste, household and grocery store biowaste and sawdust.
St1 has performed worldwide studies of different types of potential food industry waste for bioethanol production, and discovered that waste from cassava starch production in Thailand is one of the best feedstock sources for the company’s Etanolix technology.
Patrick Pitkänen, head of business development and sales at St1, said: “Cassava waste is a challenging feedstock for ethanol production due to its fibrous consistency, which makes starch extraction difficult.
“The pilot tests in St1 R&D laboratories proved that it is an excellent feedstock for our bioethanol production process. Our experiences of using Cellunolix technology to produce ethanol from sawdust helped us to address the challenges involved in the processing of fibrous feedstock materials.
“The amount of cassava waste generated by Thailand’s largest starch production plants would enable the construction of units producing 10-30 million litres of ethanol per year. Our goal is to build as many as 20 Etanolix plants in Thailand, with a combined production capacity of 400 million litres of ethanol per year.”
For this project, St1 partnered with Ubon Bio Ethanol Co., which has a starch and ethanol plant in the same location in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.
State-owned energy companies
This convenient arrangement would make the pilot project easy to manage and would simplify full-scale production logistics. Ubon Bio Ethanol, the largest cassava ethanol producer in Thailand, is a private company whose shareholders are state-owned energy companies.
“We are ready to go ahead with the pilot stage with our local partners, to ensure a smooth start to production and to assess the effects of local conditions and seasonal changes on the scale and design of the ethanol plant. This is also an important learning opportunity for the team, which consists of representatives from both companies. Design engineers are currently working on the pilot equipment, and the pilot launch is scheduled for this year,” Pitkänen added.
“Our co-operation will make an impact on the cassava starch industry and we try to increase the value of the by-products like cassava pulp,” said Daechapon Lersuwanaroj, the president of Ubon Bio Ethanol, Thailand.
Lersuwanaroj added: “We plan to expand this concept also to other starch producers in Thailand and nearby countries. To produce ethanol from by-product serves two purposes; it improves economically margin of starch producers and solves the environmental issue related to by-product. Moreover, Ubon Bio Ethanol is committed to the sustainable development goals related to our business partners, farmers, community and the environment.”