MCOT. To meet growing domestic demand, Thai Oil, the leading petroleum refinery in Thailand, is in the planing stages for an ethanol plant that would produce the fuel from cassavas.
Production capacity for the plant will range between 1–2 million liters per day (264–528 thousand gallons US). Correspondingly, costs will range from US$150–250 million.
At the end of 2004, Thailand had ethanol production capacity of some 4.36 million liters per day, divided among 24 producers. The Thai Oil plant could thus increase capacity by some 23%–46%.
Piti Yimprasert, Thai Oil president, 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. Sugarcane and molasses are other feedstocks for Thai ethanol.
Cassava is a hardy, starchy crop that grows with minimal inputs and delivers a reasonable yield even on infertile land where the cultivation of other crops is difficult.
For processing into ethanol, the cassava starch is initially converted to glucose by the enzyme or acid process, similar to the process used for cereal grains and other starchy feedstocks.
Cassava ethanol projects are also in development in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nigeria.