Thai researchers of Khon Kaen University have successfully developed a cane juice-based production process of hythane, an alternative fuel that yields higher energy than natural gases, and have planned further development for industrial purposes.
On September 22, 2017, Prof. Dr. Alissara Reungsang of the Department of Biotechnology, the Faculty of Technology, Khon Kaen University, held a press conference on her study on hythane production from cane juice. “Thailand is pursuing a policy to use new engines of growth, which include research, innovation, science, as well as biotechnology, strive towards a new economy and lead the country towards Thailand 4.0. In response to the government’s policy, Khon Kaen University, as a knowledge center of the northeast, has conducted biotechnology research to develop a commercially viable method of producing hythane gas from cane juice.”
Presenting an alternative use of sugar cane other than sugar production, the project was funded by the Office of the Cane and Sugar Board (OSCB) and the Agricultural Research Development Agency (ARDA). The process starts with the production of hydrogen gas from cane juice in an anaerobic hydrogen fermentation tank. The fermented liquid from this step is then used as a raw material for the production of methane. Subsequently, the resulting hydrogen and methane are mixed into hythane. An experiment with small generators showed that hythane is an effective fuel, with efficiency rates similar to regular fuels. In addition, there was also no difference between the erosion rates of generators that used hythane and other regular fuels.
“Hythane yields higher energy than compressed natural gas (CNG) and can boost the efficiency of an internal combustion engine, which helps save fuels and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and hydrocarbon compounds by 80% when compared to CNG. This clearly demonstrates the potential of hythane as an alternative energy for Thailand.”
Prof. Dr. Alissara added that in addition to cane juice, other raw materials can also serve as feedstock for hythane production, such as wastewater from tapioca flour plants and sugar mill as well as other agricultural waster such as bagasse and oil palm stalks. Therefore, this research can be used as a prototype for application to other types of biomass, which will not only transform domestic raw materials and industrial agricultural waste into high-efficiency fuels but also reduce dependence on fuel import. More importantly, this technology will also support the government’s policy in striving towards green and sustainable industries in the era of Thailand 4.0.