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St1 completes construction of cassava-based ethanol pilot plant in Thailand

| By Mary Bailey

St1 Nordic Oy (Helsinki, Finland; has completed the construction of an Etanolix pilot plant at Ubon Bio Ethanol Ltd.’s (UBE) starch and ethanol plant site in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. In the project, St1 is piloting its own  technology to produce advanced ethanol for transportation using cassava pulp as feedstock. The pilot plant will be operated for a year in several starch factories to test different environments, conditions, and seasonal changes. The pilot phase is essential to finalize the concept for a full-scale ethanol production plant using cassava pulp into an investment proposal. St1 has founded a subsidiary in Thailand, St1 Renewable Energy Thailand Ltd, to run the piloting and R&D of cassava pulp ethanol production process.

“Our team consisting of members of both companies, is very excited to reach the piloting phase. The construction of ethanol production pilot equipment has been carried out in very good cooperation with our local partners in Thailand”, says Patrick Pitkänen, Advanced Fuels Director for St1 Renewable Energy. “Cassava waste is known to be a challenging feedstock due to its fibrous consistency. St1’s experiences of using Cellunolix technology to produce ethanol from saw dust helped to solve the challenges involved in the processing of fibrous feedstock materials. Equally it is important to carry out the R&D in local environment by local people in order to utilize all their valuable know-how of the feedstock and conditions,” continues Patrick Pitkänen.

The aim of the project is to start construction of the first commercial plant after the pilot phase. The amount of cassava waste generated by Thailand’s largest starch production plants would enable the construction of units producing 10-30 million liters of ethanol per year. According to Patrick Pitkänen, the goal is to build up to 20 Etanolix plants in Thailand, with a total production capacity of 400 million liters of ethanol per year.

“Etanolix piloting, at UBE’s site in Ubon Ratchathani, will enable ethanol production from starch production’s by-products, i.e. wet pulp. With more than 100 starch production plants in Thailand, there will be more than sufficient feedstock for Etanolix® project. If the pilot testing had a positive result, the concept of commercial plants would be potentially applied to other domestic starch plants and nearby counties. This development will add value to this by-product and improve the economics of cassava starch industry”, states Daechapon Lersuwanaroj, the president of Ubon Bio Ethanol, Thailand.