Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ministry to turn garbage into gas

YUTHANA PRAIWAN

Energy policymakers hope to turn garbage into gas under an ambitious programme aimed at developing over 10,000 small-scale biogas programmes nationwide over the next five years. The programme, run by the Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department, focuses on tapping methane generated from solid waste into a cooking-gas substitute for LPG.

Pisamai Sathienyawon, a senior scientist and a DEDE consultant, said shopping mall food courts, large restaurants and fresh markets would all be targeted for participation in the programme.

The food court at the Energy Ministry became the first project under the programme last year.

The DEDE now plans to provide machinery and equipment for producing biogas free of charge to 400 public schools in Greater Bangkok next year. By 2011, support would be offered to 1,400 schools nationwide, at an initial cost of 60,000 baht per school.

But each project is expected to break even within just two years, thanks to the energy savings generated from biogas.

The government had previously focused on large-scale biogas projects processing at over five tonnes a day of solid waste.

Processing plants, typically located at factories and large communities, generate electricity with financial support from the government and incentive privileges from the Board of Investment.

The DEDE project however aims at a much smaller scale, processing 10 to 20 kilogrammes of waste per day to generate methane of 2.5 cubic metres. The methane in turn is equivalent to two kilogrammes of cooking gas.

Mrs Pisamai said private individuals interested in joining the programme could apply for technical supports free of charge from the government.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) recently joined the DEDE's biogas programme to help fresh markets reduce their costs as well as solid waste that would otherwise have to go to local landfills.

The Marketing Organisation for Farmers and wholesale markets also will participate in the programme.

''[The BMA] approached us as they have problems coping with the huge amount of solid waste generated each day,'' Mrs Pisamai said.

The BMA also incurs huge costs for waste management, paying 1,000 baht per tonne to private contractors.

Mrs Pisamai said the DEDE would eventually expand the biogas programme to include shopping centres, office buildings and other commercial facilities.