The Thai Government has initiated a 15-year plan to increase the use/production of ethanol and biodiesel from 2008-2022, however, growing actual production should not meet the government's targets in 2011 and 2012.
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Sakchai Preechajarn and
The Thai Government has initiated a 15-year plan to increase the use/production of ethanol and
biodiesel from 2008-2022, however, growing actual production should not meet the government's
targets in 2011 and 2012.
Since petroleum oil prices began to sharply escalate in 2004, the Thai government has continuously
created and modified policies and programs which have led to significant increases in production and
consumption of biofuels. The current 15-year ethanol and biodiesel plans are based on the Alternative
Energy Plan 2008-2022. According to the plan, the government set targets of ethanol production of 3.0
million liters/day from 2008-2011, 6.2 million liters/day in the medium-term from 2012-2016, and 9.0
million liters/day in the long term from 2017-2022. The targets of biodiesel production (B100
biodiesel) are set at 1.35 million liters from 2008-2010, 3.02 million liters/day in 2011, 3.64 million
liters/day in 2016, and 4.50 million liters/day in 2022.
An increase in actual gasohol and biodiesel production to meet these targets has proven challenging.
Gasohol production, despite increasing from 0.92 million liters/day in 2008 to 1.17 million liters in
2010, has been far below the 3.0 million liter target, as consumers have expressed preference for
gasoline and NGV, over biofuels. In the former case, the price differential between gasohol and gasoline
has not encouraged consumers to flock to gasohol and for the latter consumers have substituted both
gasoline and gasohol consumption for the highly-subsidized LPG and NGV. As for biodiesel, although
its use is compulsory, it?s facing feedstock challenges to meet government targets due to under-targeted
planting of palm oil tree and unpredictable weather patterns. As such, the government has been
modifying its biodiesel policy to meet the feedstock supply and avoid shortages of domestic palm oil
supplies for cooking?oil demand as happened earlier this year. Under the plan, in 2011 B100 production
should be 3.02 million liters/day but due to feedstock shortages it is estimated at 2.22 million liters/day.
Therefore, the government is no longer demanding compulsory B5 production but has been switching to
compulsory use of B2, B3 and B4 as feedstock supplies increase.
Ethanol production in Thailand is produced from feedstock of sugar molasses and tapioca products,
while B100 biodiesel from palm oil products only. Ethanol production is estimated at 528 million liters
in 2011 while consumption should be limited at 439 million liters. Thailand?s ethanol exports
accordingly are estimated to increase from 49 million liters in 2010 to 70 million liters in 2011. The
outlook for ethanol production is on an upward trend in 2012 another 5 new ethanol plants with a
capacity of 1.8-1.9 million liters/day in total will be added to the 19 existing plants.
B100 biodiesel production in 2011 is estimated to grow by 3 percent or 680 million liters, the lowest in
the past few years which grew 8 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009. B100 production is totally
absorbed by domestic consumption and as a result Thailand does not export or import biodiesel.
Although it is too early to estimate B100 production due to yield vulnerability on the fresh palm harvest
which will be determined by the weather conditions up to early 2012, Post believes that B100
production should further increase to 800-820 million liters in 2012.
Thailand also promotes biomass energy for heat and power generation in recent years through the
granting of licenses to approved private companies in order to sell electricity to the Electricity
Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). Feedstock used for these projects is mainly agricultural
wastes including bagasse from sugar mills, paddy husk from rice mills, woodchips from paper factories,
and empty palm bunches from palm oil crushing mills.
1. Policy and Programs
Thailand is a pioneer among Asian countries in establishing policies to promote biofuel production and
use in an attempt to reduce its dependency on oil imports and to capitalize on its supplies of feedstock
from its vast agricultural production. However, Thailand?s biofuel work plan and development had not
materialized until petroleum oil prices began to sharply escalate in 2004. In an effort to deal with
spirally rising oil prices, the Thai government has continuously created and modified policies and
programs which have led to significant increases in production and consumption of biofuels.
All the policy and program thus far were built on the first National Alternative Energy Development
Plan 2004-2011 and the second Alternative Energy Development Plan 2008-2022, which feature
production mandates (especially biodiesel), tax privileges from the Board of Investment (BOI), tax and
retail price incentives, R&D support, and public awareness programs. The following are details on
policy and programs for ethanol and biodiesel.
Thailand has implemented a 15-year ethanol plan (2008 ? 2022) (Table 1.1). Under this plan, the
Government has set targets of ethanol production and consumption of 3.0 million liters/day thorough
2011, 6.2 million liters/day in the medium-term (2012 ? 2016) and 9.0 million liters/day in the long
term (2017 ? 2022). Nevertheless the plan?s goals have fallen short of achieving the current target of 3
million liters/day as current consumption is 1.45 million liters/day.
In its efforts to make the plan operational, the Government provides a mix of tax incentives and
subsidies to ethanol producers, gasohol refineries, and automobile manufacturers. For ethanol
producers, these receive an excise tax exemption on ethanol of 7.0 baht/liter (US 80 cents/gallon) when
selling ethanol for gasohol production in the domestic market., as compared to 2.0 percent for industrial
use, 0.1 percent for medical use, and 10.0 percent for other uses like beverage Meanwhile gasohol
refineries receive a subsidy of 13.5 baht/liters for E85 gasohol production (a mixture of 85 percent
ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) from the State Oil Fund applied at gasohol sales at the pump (see Table
2.4) in order to encourage gasohol consumption over gasoline. This enables refineries to set retail
prices of E85 gasohol 53.0 percent lower than premium gasoline. As for automobile manufacturers,
effective January 2011, those manufacturers who produce vehicles compatible with E85 will be able to
import parts and components duty free during 2011 ? 2013. Moreover, the Government extended a
reduction on import duties for flex fuel vehicles (FFV) from 80 to 60 percent by end of 2011.
Figure 1.1 Biodiesel Development Plan for 2008-2022
In 2005, Thailand began a campaign to promote biodiesel production and consumption to ease its
reliance on fossil fuels. Initial production of biodiesel was insignificant until February 1, 2008, when the
Government adopted a fifteen-year policy, called Biodiesel Development Plan for 2008-2022, requiring
compulsory production of B2 biodiesel (B2) (high-speed diesel with the two percent of B100 biodiesel
(B100) content by weight) while B5 biodiesel (B5) production would be available for voluntary use in
2008. The plan (figure 1.1) indicates that compulsory B5 production would have been scheduled to
begin in 2011 and B10 biodiesel (B10) production would also be available for use on a voluntary basis,
however feedstock production has fallen short in meeting the Government?s goals.
Although current feedstock production does not meet current policy demand, the government has
spearheaded efforts to stimulate domestic fresh oil palm production in order to align it with the policy?s
demand for B100 production. In 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry
of Energy initiated ?Committee on Biofuel Development and Promotion? (CBDP) and developed a plan
to expand the palm growing area by 400,000 hectares from 2008 to 2012 or 80,000 hectares annually.
Additionally, the committee set goals of increasing palm productivity from 19 tons/hectare to 22
tons/hectare, and the crushing rate of crude palm oil from 17 percent to 18.5 percent by 2012. To
achieve the plan, the RTG provided low-interest loans to participating oil palm farmers.
However, increasing palm plantings and productivity to meet demand has been challenging. An attempt
to expand palm growing area is limited by competitive rubber plantations and a lack of suitable land for
palm plantation. As a result, the actual increase in oil palm harvested areas is far below the planned
80,000 hectares per annum in recent years. In addition, irregular climatic patterns tend to be more
severe as of late which have adversely affected palm yields.
These two factors, the under-targeted planting and unpredictable weather patterns, have hindered the
accomplishment of the biodiesel development plan goals. For example, dry conditions in early 2010 led
fresh oil palm production to drop by 30-40 percent during its second peak harvest from September-
December 2010, resulting in shortages of domestic palm oil supplies for meeting cooking-oil demand
and record prices in early 2011.
To ease the shortage problem, the government allowed imports of semi-refined palm oil and ordered the
Ministry of Energy to reverse its B3 biodiesel (B3) compulsory policy (which had been in effect since
June 2010) to B2 (TH0079). The B2 compulsory policy was valid from March-April 2011. In April
2011, the Ministry of Energy announced it would restart compulsory B3 production on May 1, 2011 and
removed all price/tax subsidies for B5 production to ease the pressure on the limited supplies. As a
result, B5 bio-diesel has not been on sale since May 1, 2011. On June 20, 2011, the Ministry announced
to replace compulsory production of B3 with B4, but only for 3 months from July-September 2011 as
the peak harvest season comes into play.
In order to avoid repeating the shortage mishaps, the Ministry of Energy has stated that they are closely
monitoring the palm oil supply situation in the next few months in order to decide whether the
introduction of compulsory B5 production is possible, which by plan should have been in place since
January 1, 2011.
1.3 Alternative Energy Development Plan 2008-2022
In 2008, The Ministry of Energy rolled-out its Alternative Energy Development Plan 2008-2022. Its
goal is ?to increase the share of alternative energy mixed to be 20% of the country?s total energy
demand by 2022.? The plan contains the following objectives: 1) to utilize alternative energy as a major
energy substitute for imported oil; 2) to increase energy security; 3) to promote an integrated green
energy utilization in communities; 4) to enhance the development of alternative energy industry; and 5)
to research, and develop efficient technologies for alternative energy sources.
The Plan is divided into 3 stages:
Short term (2008-2011): Focus on promotion of commercial alternative energy technology from
high potential energy sources including biofuels, biomass, and biogas.
Medium term (2012-2016): Focus on development of alternative energy
technology industry, encourage new alternative energy R&D of economically
viable technological methods and sources, and introduce a model for the
concept of ?Green City? to help communities move toward energy self-
sufficiency through sustainable development.
Long term (2017-2022): Enhance utilization of new available alternative
energy technology, i.e. hydrogen, bio hydrogenated diesel (BHD), extend
green city models throughout the country and ASEAN countries.
Note: alternative energy is defined as energy used for substituting fuel sources without the undesired
consequences of the replaced fuels and are divided in 2 categories: 1) alternative energy derived from
depleted resources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, peat and oil sand etc., and 2) alternative energy
which is derived from non-depleted resources such as biofuels, biomass, solar, wind, hydro and
In 2011, five new tapioca-based ethanol plants are due for completion with total production capacity of
1.8 million liters/day (Table 2.1). However, their operation is expected to be delayed until high tapioca
prices ease at a level where it is economically feasible to operate the plants. In addition, there are 19
existing ethanol plants operating with total production capacity of 2.9 million liters/day, of which nearly
half are flexible feedstock based ethanol plants. They are currently operating at approximately 1.45
million liter/day, up 25 percent from an average production of 1.16 million liters/day in the previous
year, due to an increase in gasohol consumption, particularly for E10 Octane 91 gasohol driven by
bigger price difference with premium gasoline.
Molasses-based ethanol dominates ethanol production, operating at 1.17 million liters/day, up 54.5
percent from the previous year?s average production of 0.76 million liters/day. It accounts for 80
percent of total ethanol production, as 70 percent of ethanol plants have sugar mills as their core
business. In addition, the downward trend in molasses prices due to a bumper sugarcane crop in
MY2010/11 (TH1051, Sugar Annual 2011) of 4.2 million tons, or up 42 percent from the previous year,
made it more attractive to use. Meanwhile, tapioca-based ethanol production, is at 0.28 million
liters/day, is down 12.8 percent from the average of 0.33 million liters/day from the previous year due to
record tapioca prices. Due to this price divergence, tapioca-based ethanol production cost is 17 percent
higher than molasses-base ethanol as tapioca prices increased 23.1 percent from the previous year?s
average prices of 2.25 baht/kg. By the end of this year, ethanol production is expected to increase to 1.5
million liters/day in anticipation of an increase in gasohol consumption. In 2012, 24 ethanol plants with
a total capacity of 4.8 million liters/day will exist in Thailand, as compared to 19 plants with capacity of
2.9 million liters/day in 2011. Although, the new ethanol plants will be tapioca-based plants, molasses
based ethanol will continue to dominate ethanol production, accounting for 60-70 percent of total
ethanol production, as the downward price trend is expected to continue due to the bumper MY2011/12
sugarcane crop (TH1051). The sole sugarcane based ethanol plant will operate at 40-50 percent
capacity at 80,000 ? 100,000 liters/day using approximately 0.4 million tons of sugarcane a year,
producing 28 million liters/year or 5.0 percent of total ethanol production. The sugarcane used in this
plant is cultivated in an area of 50,000 rai (8,000 hectares), which is unsuitable to the production of
edible crop due to the hazardous nature of the land.
Nevertheless, the plants will continue to face challenges as they will be operating at less than half of
their full capacity, as demand for gasohol production is limited by the existing consumption of regular
gasoline, accounting for around 40 percent of total consumption, as many consumers are inclined to pay
the premium on gasoline.
In 2011, ethanol consumption is expected to increase to 1.2 million liters/day, up 14.0 percent from
2010, in anticipation of an increase in E20 gasohol consumption (a blend of 20% ethanol and 80%
gasoline) driven by more production of E20 vehicles which has increased to 700,000 units, so far. In
addition, sales of flex-fuel vehicles (FFV) which are compatible with E85 gasohol (a blend of 85%
ethanol and 15% gasoline) have increased to 4,520 units in April 2011, as compared to 3,489 units in
the end of 2010. Moreover E85 gasohol stations have increased to 21 stations, up from 10 stations in
the end of 2010.
In the first four months of the year, E20 gasohol consumption increased to 0.6 million liters/day, up 50
percent from an average 0.3 million liters/day in the previous year (Table 2.3). Also, E85 consumption
nearly doubled from the previous year to 0.02 million liters/day. The increase reflects the government
price subsidy for E20 and E85 gasohol from the State Oil Fund, causing E20 and E85 to be cheaper than
premium gasoline by 28 and 53 percent, respectively (Table 2.4).
In 2012, ethanol consumption will continue its upward trend to 1.3 million liters/day in anticipation of
growing E20 and E85 consumption due to the increase in the number of E20 and flex-fuel vehicles, and
E20 and E85 gasohol stations. However, this anticipated increase in ethanol consumption of 1.3 million
liter/day is still far below the government?s medium-term goal of 6.2 million liters/day in 2012 - 2016.
This discrepancy can be attributed to an inconsistent government policy by reversing its decision to
mandate compulsory use of gasohol when it first enacted its gasohol plan. Moreover, consumption of
LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and NGV (Natural Gas Vehicles) has trended upward at the expense of
gasohol as they are 60-70 percent cheaper than gasohol. Presently, NGV consumption increased to 6.1
million kilogram/day, up 22 percent from 2010.
The paucity in ethanol consumption is putting many ethanol plants under financial duress as these are
operating way below capacity. Stakeholders have different views of how to make-up for this shortfall in
consumption some want more direct government intervention such as mandating ethanol use. Others
favor a less drastic approach such as eliminating subsidies on LPG and NGV and increasing the price
differential between gasohol and gasoline. Regardless of the policies, the industry is aware that if
consumption does not increase significantly many plants will have to cease operations.
In 2010 ethanol exports (HS2207.10.00) increased to 48.2 million liters, up 8.5 percent from the
previous year, due to excess ethanol supply. Most exports were molasses-based ethanol for use in the
beverage industries. Although a huge excess capacity of 40-50 million liters/month goes unused, only
three ethanol plants out of the existing 19 plants are capable to export, while other plants, especially the
tapioca-based ethanol plants, are not cost effective for export sales as their production facilities are
designed for domestic sales, therefore lacking the needed infrastructure for export capabilities, and
located far from export facilities. Currently, only one molasses-based ethanol plant, initially established
for export sales with a production capacity of 200,000 liters/day, is operating at full capacity.
Presently, ethanol exports during January ? February 2011 increased significantly by 36 percent from
the previous year. Ethanol exports will likely continue to increase to 70 million liters in 2011, most of
which are beverage grade ethanol. Meanwhile, there will be no imports of ethanol for gasohol
production in 2011 due to sufficient domestic supplies and the Government imposes a tariff rate of 2.5
baht/liter (roughly 27 US cents/gallon) on imported ethanol.
In 2012 ethanol exports are forecast to continue the upward trend due to large excess surplus of ethanol
production and the operation of the new tapioca-based ethanol plants that will add1.8 million liters/day
of capacity. However, the increase in exports falls way short of closing the gap between existing
capacity and production.
2.4 Ending Stocks
Presently, ethanol stocks of ethanol remain high at 43.7 million liters, as compared to 30.5 million liters
at the beginning of 2011. Some ethanol plants suspend operations for 3-6 months to deplete their
surplus, particularly for small tapioca-based ethanol plants who have limited storage facilities.. Ending
stocks of ethanol in 2011 will likely be at an optimal level based on oil reserve requirement of 5% of
sales which is around 20-30 million liters, in anticipation of an increase in export demand.
2.5 Market for Ethanol Used as Other Industrial Chemicals
Unlike fuel ethanol, production of non-fuel ethanol is controlled by the government. The Liquor
Distillery Organization (LDO) under the Excise Department of the Ministry of Finance monopolized
industrial grade ethanol production in Thailand with production capacity of approximately 60,000
liters/day. Industrial grade ethanol accounts for around 30 percent of total non-fuel ethanol production.
The balance is beverage grade which is produced by private distillers who receive concession from the
government. In 2011-12 industrial grade ethanol production is forecast to increase to 17-18 million
liters, up 6.0 percent annually. The LDO plans to invest in new facilities with triple capacity increase
due to growing domestic demand for industrial grade ethanol, particularly for medical/pharmacy, paints,
and cosmetic industries. Presently, domestic demand for industrial grade ethanol is approximately
There is only one fuel-ethanol plant that established for exports with production capacity of 200,000
tons which have facilities for beverage- and industrial-grade ethanol production. Most of its exports are
beverage grade ethanol to Japan, Korea, and China.
B100 in Thailand is currently produced from feedstock from the palm oil industry- i.e. crude palm oil
(CPO), refined bleached deodorized (RBD) palm oil, palm stearin and free fatty acids of palm oil
(FFA). B100 production is solely determined by domestic demand for blended biodiesel, currently
compulsory at B3, and will shift to mandatory B4 production on July 1, 2011. Thailand does not import
or export B100, it does however export CPO.
Although the government is likely to maintain its mandatory B4 policy for the rest of the year, B100
production in 2011 is estimated to grow by 3 percent or 680 million liters, the lowest in the past few
years which grew 8 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009, due to the Ministry of Energy?s reversal of
its mandatory B3 production to B2 to ease palm oil shortages. Based on a recent survey done by FAS,
the production outlook for palm oil is favorable for 2011 as CPO palm oil production should top 1.55
million tons aided by improving yields and an expanding harvested area. This would represent a 20
percent increase from 2010 CPO production of 1.29 million tons, which was hampered by unfavorable
weather conditions as production dropped from from1.37 million tons or 6 percent from 2009.
Production of B100 for 2012 is too early to estimate due to yield vulnerability on the fresh palm harvest
which will be determined by the weather conditions up to early 2012. As such, the Ministry of Energy
has become more cautious about the palm oil?s vulnerability to erratic weather conditions which has
lead them to delay introduction of compulsory B5 production..
In 2010, the latest B100 processing plant came into production with the along with the prevailing 14
plants, This plant, called Bangkok Produce, is considered a small plant with a capacity of 4,000
liters/day utilizing recycled cooking oil as feedstock. The total capacity of biodiesel processing plants
altogether is currently 6 million liters/day. As compared to actual B100 production of 1.8-2.0 million
liters/day, the B100 industry is running far below its capacity at about 40 percent of total capacity. In
addition, unfavorable prices paid to these B100 processors forced a few plants to halt their production
temporarily in 2010 and 2011.
According to B100 producers, they claim that they are at disadvantage as the few petroleum refineries
are able to influence market prices. Trade sources cited that actual prices paid to CPO B100 producers
are about 10 percent or 2-3 baht/liter below reference prices1/. Prices for stearin B100 are sold at 1-2
baht/liter below CPO B100 due to a presence of ?cloud point? appearance in stearin-derived B100.
Some B100 producers who own feedstock processing plants (i.e., CPO crushing plants or cooking oil
refineries) enjoy lower production costs than processors without feedstock processing. Until recently,
the latter group attempted to reduce their production costs by switching from CPO raw material to
cheaper stearin, however this sent the prices of stearin skyrocketing. These elevated prices have again
caused this group to move towards using cheaper a source in the form of free fatty acids of palm oil
(FFA) as feedstock. Typical prices for different types of feedstock are currently 36.00-37.00 baht/kg for
CPO, 34.00-35.00 baht/kg for stearin, and 20.00-22.00 baht/kg for FFA.
1/ Reference prices are calculated and announced on a weekly basis by Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO), Ministry of Energy, to reflect B100
production coat at a certain period. The government uses these reference prices to calculate an Oil Fund fee. However, both B100 producers and buyers use
the reference prices as a basis for negotiating actual prices for their trade.
B100 consumption, which is determined by the sale of the different blended ratios of biodiesel,
increased from 609 million liters in 2009 to 646 million liters in 2010. B100 consumption is anticipated
to further grow to 678 million liters in 2011.
Petroleum refineries suspended their B5 production in May 2011. Only B3 production is on sale at the
moment. As of July 1, 2011, B4 production will be on sale by mandate. The government has thus far
eased its different tax burdens on biodiesel in order to stabilize transportation and electricity costs as a
measure to help curb inflation. Price structure of diesel (B3) is presented below.
B100 monthly consumption and sales of B2 and B5 are presented in a table below:
Thailand has not imported or exported any B100 products thus far since the government practically
restricts trade by not issuing import/export permits for B100. This is done to protect domestic palm
3.4 Ending Stocks
B100 production is supplied to domestic petroleum oil refineries on a contract basis; B100 producers try
to keep their production limited to cover the contract amounts. As a result, the country?s stocks, held by
either B100 producers or petroleum oil refineries, are low at 15-20 million liters or about ten days of
The stock availability of CPO, a main feedstock for B100 production, will be the main factor
determining how far the government will mandate production of B4. Based on Post?s calculation,
Thailand may encounter low stocks of CPO in early 2012 if actual CPO production in 2011 turns out to
less than 1.6 million tons. If that is the case, the government may need to reverse its B4 mandate to B3
or B2 as it did in early 2011.
4. Advance Biofuels
A molasses-based ethanol plant using second-generation biofuels in the form of cane bagasse is
currently operational. This pilot project has been established between Thai Roong Ruang Group, one of
the largest sugar mills in Thailand, in cooperation with the Japanese government (under the supervision
of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)), and the Thai government (under the supervision of the Office of
Cane and Sugar Board (OCSB), Ministry of Industry). The operation remains in the experimental stage
with a production of 10,000 liters/day. The full capacity will be 120,000 liters/day once it is fully
developed. This plant has two production lines, one for molasses and one for bagasse.
5. Biomass for Heat and Power
In Thailand, biogas derived from animal manure for power generation and cooking is done at the farm
level usually for own household needs. Larger developments have been undertaken on power generation
from landfill biogas. The Energy Conservation Promotion Fund (ENCON), a government agency, has
supported several projects in forms of soft loan, monetary subsidy, R&D, and assistance on feasibility
Thailand has also promoted biomass energy for heat and power generation in recent years through the
granting of licenses to approved private companies in order to sell electricity to the Electricity
Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) under the Small Producer Program (SPP) and Very Small
Producer Program (VSPP). SPP is applied for a facility which could supply not more than 10 MW of
electricity while VSPP is not more than 1 MW. The government also provided incentives to these small
power producers through ?adder cost? which is added on the top of selling prices for 7-10 years and a
soft loan program. As a result, a large number of small renewable energy projects have emerged in
many areas of Thailand. Feedstock used for these projects is mainly agricultural wastes including
bagasse from sugar mills, paddy husk from rice mills, woodchips from paper factories, and empty palm
bunches from palm oil crushing mills.
The Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) reported that, as of December 31, 2009, 101 small
producers (SP) were approved to sell 5,828.523 MW of electricity to EGAT, of which 60 producers
were able to supply 2,358.52 MW in total in 2009. It also reported that 1,155 very-small producers
(VSP) were approved to sell 5492.81 MW of electricity in 2009, of which 148 producers supplied
End of report