12/12/2005 (Thai Press Reports) - The Energy Ministry is considering importing crude palm oil to support local production of biodiesel.
Deputy permanent secretary Pornchai Rujiprapha said yesterday that the ministry was considering ways to support the production of alternative fuels.
The plan follows His Majesty the King's speech on the eve of his 78th birthday, in which he urged the development of bold plans for making alternative fuels.
Biodiesel and gasohol, which are made from agricultural and forest products and waste, are part of the country's programme to develop biofuel.
However, there is a shortage of raw materials for biofuel production in Thailand, particularly crude palm oil, used to make biodiesel.
Currently, only 150,000 tonnes a day of crude palm oil are left over from normal consumption by industries like food and soap manufacturing, said Pornchai.
As a result, the ministry will study the advantages and disadvantages of importing crude palm oil and whether such a move has economic value.
In talks with the Commerce Ministry, it has already been recognised that such imports should not spill over demand levels to affect the domestic market and should not force local prices below Bt2 to Bt2.60 per kilogram.
Pornchai said the Energy Ministry had assigned its Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department to study all aspects of the plan, and a report to the Cabinet was expected next month.
If the study shows there to be no economic value in importing crude palm oil, the development of biodiesel will have to wait for the expansion of oil palm and black soap plantations over the next three years.
The government plans for enough biodiesel to be produced to substitute for 10 per cent of total diesel consumption, representing 8.5 million litres per day, or 3.1 billion litres per year.
However, Pornchai said production was currently dependent on raw materials surplus to the needs of other industries. Only one biodiesel manufacturer, in Samut Sakhon, is making 200,000 litres a day.
Meanwhile, the growing of black soap trees to supply the industry is being promoted, and support by oil retailers means biodiesel retail prices have fallen by 50 satang per litre.