Pinthong Engineering Co is currently the only company that financially supports the research. (Photo: Stock File/Pinthong Engineering/FIS)
Govt to fund algal biofuel research
Friday, September 03, 2010, 15:20 (GMT + 9)
Thailand’s Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department may be financing algal biofuel research and development, according to Deputy Director-General Twarath Sutabutr.
Algal biofuel, he said, might be commercially viable in light of the success of crude palm oil, but the former would necessitate the appropriate algae.
"Two universities are now conducting algae research - the Chanthaburi campus of Burapha University, focusing on marine algae, and Kasetsart University, which is looking into freshwater algae," said Twarath, Bangkok Post reports.
|Maliwan Kutako (Photo: (chanthaburi.buu.ac.th)
The department will fund the project and help the two Thai universities and the leading Australian research institutes James Cook University and the Queensland University of Technology share marine technology data.
Global oil prices will probably rise next year and reach the record previously set in 2008, Twarath said.
"Thailand, a net importer of oil, should prepare for this situation by switching to alternative fuels in as many cases as possible," he inferred.
Algae research began in 2009 with the engineering faculty, and now has more than 30 researchers from the two fields working on it, said Maliwan Kutako, a lecturer with Burapha's marine technology faculty in Chanthaburi. The team is now studying 28 strains of marine algae and trying to develop algae-breeding technology.
"But the problem is that only Pinthong Engineering Co, a Bangkok-based engineering service provider, has supported us since the beginning, donating almost one million baht for R&D. That's not enough," she explained.
"We've found a strain that can produce 100 l of biofuel from 250 tonnes of algae. To pursue this, we need more equipment and better technology," said Maliwan.
The algae strains used in the study were taken from the coast near the campus, following in the concept that biofuels should be produced from locally grown materials.
This campus is the country’s sole fully integrated algae R&D facility. It brings together a laboratory and a 100-rai pond to breed algae.
"Bangchak Petroleum will test the quality of the algae biofuel next week, and the campus plans to build a production unit with a capacity of 100 l a day," Maliwan added.
By Natalia Real