First Biorefinery Pilot Plant Launched in Northeastern Thailand to Mobilize National Bio Hub

Suranaree University of Technology (SUT) is launching the first biorefinery factory in northeastern part of Thailand in response with the increasingly growth of SMELs and Startup business groups towards the country’s bio hub, particularly in terms of bioenergy, biochemicals and bioplastics. The factory, aiming to serve as the first industrial model of the country, will function to improve bioeconomy and rally research and development on bio-industrial works, particularly cassava, sugarcane and other economic crops, apart from ethanol production to tackle the first phase of Covid-19 pandemic. It is expected that more values worth over 50 million Thai Baht will be added to the said products in the next 3 – 5 years.

The factory, aka SUT Biorefinery Pilot Plant, under supervision of Techno Thani and SUT’s School of Biotechnology, Institute of Agricultural Technology, besides aiming to expand the growth of the above-mentioned business groups as well as research and development projects, aims to start functioning for the first time to produce ethanol. Also, with cooperation of the SUT’s Center of Scientific and Technological Equipment, it will manufacture 75% alcohol gel under social service standards for university affairs to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 and, at the same time, disseminate knowledge to the public in terms of organizing a workshop on alcohol gel production for various organizations.

The SUT president Assoc. Prof. Weeraphong Phaesuwan announced that the biorefinery factory was granted some funding under the northeastern Thailand integration budget from the Bureau of National Budget. It was launched under the integration plan for human resources production and development strategies as the first role model of northeast Thailand to support, promote and expand the SMELs and Startup businesses on bioenergy and biochemicals of cassava, sugarcane and other economic crops.

Prof. Weeraphong Phaesuwan, SUT president Assoc.

All of them are necessarily in the initial business stage so that research and development services are experimented and a platform to create and improve entrepreneurs is introduced to make and sell bio-industrial products concretely for better bioeconomy development in the northeastern Thailand. The function will be operated by Science and Innovation Park (SIP) and the School of Biotechnology, the Institute of Agricultural Technology.

According to Assoc. Aphichart Bunthawan, the factory was designed in the R&D pilot plant form responsible for giving bioproduction process consultancy, design and experimentation. To highlight product characteristics and pilot plant level production, it has over 10 researchers and research assistants. Services provided there for private sectors feature sugar production processes based on different biomass types, fermentation, solution filtration by thin membranes, absorption, thin film evaporation process, continuous sequences of distillation, partial reaction distillation, crystallization, short distance distillation, spray drying, tray drying, pressure-absorbing systems for separating carbon dioxide from biogas, separation of nitrogen from the air to produce oxygen or the separation of water from ethanol for ethanol fuel production, among others.

It is expected that, in the next 3-5 years after operation, the pilot plant will have added values worth over 50 million Baht to all products under services as it creates more opportunities to access equipment on modern bioenergy and biochemicals for over 10 entrepreneurs. Also, recruitments of up to 100 positions of bioenergy and biochemicals will take place as well as upgrading of the entrepreneurs in the areas throughout the country in terms of creation and development of high value and world market competitive bioenergy and biochemicals sale and production.

Private entrepreneurs interested in research and development of bioenergy and biochemicals can contact SUT’s Science and Innovation Park (SIP) and the School of Biotechnology, the Institute of Agricultural Technology, at office hours from Monday to Friday.