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 Home > About Thailand > Energy and Natural Resources

ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES


Traditional energy in the above table includes firewood, charcoal, bagasses, and rice husk. Assessment of non-commercial use of firewood and charcoal is very approximate. Non-commercial uses of solar and wind energy in salt production, drying of agricultural products, ect. are not included. From the above table, energy consumption per capita in 1986 was about 610 litres of oil equivalent. It should also be noted that the projected consumption in 1996 is based upon an annual growth rate of 4.7 percent.

However, the actual growth of total energy consumption in 1988 was more than 13 percent owing mainly to the rapid expansion of the industrial and transportation sectors in the country. As a result, development of domestic energy sources such as natural gas, oil, lignite, biomass, etc. has already been accelerated.


MINERAL RESOURCES

NATURAL GAS AND OIL

The potential for natural gas and oil in Thailand is quite substantial. Proven and ultimate recoverable reserves of natural gas found to be 348 cu.m and 513 cu.m. respectively. In 1985, natural gas production from the Gulf of Thailand was about 6.8 million cu.m per day. It is expected that by 1991, the production capacity will be over 13.5 million cu.m per day. Methane, ethane, LPG and condensate are separated in a gas separation plant and used for electricity generation,as raw materials for the petrochemical industry, and as cooking gas and vehicular fuels.

Proven and expected reserves of crude oil and condensate have been identified at 100 and 1,100 million barrels res pectively Current production from the Sirikit oil field in Kamphaengphet is about 20,000 barrels per day. New oil fields were recently fiund off the Chumphon and the Bang Rakam District and are expected to produce about 10,000 barrels per day. In addition, more gas and oil fields are expected to be found in Thailand, both off-and onshore.

LIGNITE

Lignite deposits have been found in 37 basins in Northern and Southern provinces in Thailand. Present proven reserves are about 1,100 million tons, of which over 80 percent are located in the North. Recently, large lignite deposits have been identified at Songkhla, with a reserve of over 100 million tons, and at Surat Thani, with reserves of about 150 million tons, In 1985, five million tons of lignite were used for electricity generation at 735 MW capacity. It is planned that in 1991 the lignite-fired station will have a total generation capacity of 1,485 MW and consume about 9 million tons of lignite per year.

Utilization of lignite in industry has been actively promoted. The amount of lignite consumption by industry increased from 0.5 million tons in 1885 to 1.3 milloin tons in 1988. At present industrial uses of lignite occur mainly in the cement industry and also in small and medium size factories around Bangkok. It should be mentioned that though an air quality standard exists in Thailand, emission regulation for lignite combustion has not yet been established. Boilers used in power stations and industry emit sulphur dioxide and NOX directly into the atmosphere. With the increasing uses of domestic lignite and imported coal for electricity generation and industry, a better pollution control in the use is being considered. It has also been estimated that geological reserves of lignite could reach 2,600 million tons, from which the recoverable amount is quite considerable.

OIL SHALE

Exploration of oil shale in Thailand commenced in the northern part of the country in 1935. To date 21,000 million tons of oil shale have been identified with a shale oil reserve of about 6,700 million barrels. Recoverable reserves are estimated about 2,400 million barrels. The kerosene content in Thai oil shale is relitively low, below 10 percent on the average. Though several processes for shale oil extraction have been developed, mainly in the U.S.,at the present level of oil prices the exploitatuon of shale oil in Thailand would not be competitive. However, the oil shale reserves represent a large domestic source of energy for the future.


RENEWABLE RESOURCES

HYDRO ELECTRICITY

The total hydro potential of domestic rivers is estimated at about 10,050 MW. The current generation capacity of hydro electricity at 2,300 MW. represents about 30 percent of the total generating capacity of the country. Hydro potential of domestic rivers still exists and can be further utilized when a few environmental issuse can be resolved in the future.

As part of rural electricfication program to bring electricity to 95 percent of all villages in Thailand by 1990, 29 small hydropower sites have been identified as economically suitable for more accurate cost estimates and detailed engineering work. It should be noted that the thorough feasibility study of a small hydropower project tends to indicate that the cosy of electricity generated from a suitable site can be more economical than electricity generated from a diesel-electric set of a photovoltaic plant.

BIOMASS

In 1985, about 54 percent and 46 percent of rural households used wood and charcoal for cooking. The total sustainable supply of fuelwood in 1983 was estimated at about 15.5 million cu.m, but the total consumption of fuelwood in the same year was about 38.6 million cu.m. The deficit of 23.1 cu.m was met by over-cutting of forests. By 2001, potential demand for fuelwood could reach 30 million cu.m. To avoid serious environmental and economic damages due to deforestation, reforestation programs have been implemented and have had good success. During the last five years, about 100,000 acres of eucalyptus have been planted, and large plantations of other fast growing trees are planned by both public and private sectors.

Several agricultural residues have been as fuels in rural industries. Most of the bagases resource, estimated at about 7.5 million tons per year, is used as boiler fuel in sugar mills. Rice husk supply was estimated in in 1987 to be over 5 million tons, 40 percent of which was used as boiler fuel in rice mills. More than 3 million tons are still available as energy resource for rural industries or electricity generation whose potential is estimated to be at least 88 GWh per year. Palm oil wastes consisting of fibre, shells, and empty bunches are also used as boiler fuel in palm oil mills.

Other agricultural residues such as straw, maize stalks, cassava stalks, coconut shells and husk also have potential as energy resources for rural areas, their total supply being more than 35 million tons per year. Viable utilization technologies are being identified or developed.

It is realized that some types of industrial waste waters can be utillized for biogas production. Laboratory scale tests were conducted on several types of such waters such as tapioca waste, canning food waste, and dairy waste in order to determine their potentials for this purpose. A pilot study of biogas production from pineapple waste has been successfully conducted and an industrial plant is under construction at a pineapple canning factory. Several breweries in Thailand now generate biogas from their wastes. Liquid wastes from sugar mills and palm oil mills are also being considered for biogas generation.

SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY

Thailand is fairly well endowed with solar radiation at 17 MJ/(m*m) per day on the average, though about 50 percent of the global radiation appears as diffuse radiation. Equipment using direct radiation is therefore hardly feasible economically. Solar energy has been used non-commercially in the country for centuries. Its use in salt production from sea water has been estimated to be as much as the equivalent of 20 million barrels of oil. Sun drying of about 15 million tons of paddy rice per year requires solar energy equivalent to about half a million barrels of oil. Sun drying has also been widely used for other agricultural and marine products, though there has been no official attempt to estimate the amount of non-commercial solar energy utilization.

A solar water heating industry has been established in Thailand for almost a decade, with solar collectors installed for the purpose in hospitals, hotels, and private homes. Current domestic production of solar collectors is over 10,000 sq.m per year. Development of solar dryers has also been very active in the country and a few designs of concection dryers have been commercialized with some success. Several designs of solar stills have been developed, including vertical surface solar stills, and installation of large solar stills for demonstration is being planned.

Generation of electricity by photovoltaic cells has developed rapidly in Thailand. A large number of demonstration projects for telecommunication, lighting, and water pumping have been set up, with a combined peak output of about 400 KW. Semi-conductor laboratories in two academic institutes conduct research and development on solar cell materials and fabrication. Photovoltaic modules are locally produced in two factories.

In general, the potential of wind energy in Thailand is not very promising as the average wind speed in the country is only about 2 m/s, which is rather low for economical utilization. However, high wind speeds exist in some coastal areas, and windmills have been used for water pumping in salt farms and rice fields in Samut Sakhon, Chonburi and other provinces. It has been recently shown that traditional sail-type windmills used for water pumping in salt farms are more economical than diesel-driven water pumps. Demonstrations of wind electric power systems have also been conducted.


Energy and the Environment

The use of energy partly contributes to environmental problems, particularly air pollution in Bangkok. The government and the energy sector have move quickly to alleviate this problem.

Unleaded gasoline was introduced for the first time on 1 May 1991 and is now avialable throughout the country. Mandatory installation of catalytic converters in all new gasoline vehicles became effective on 1 September 1993. Regular leaded gasoline which contains 0.15 gram per liter of lead will be completely replace by regular unleaded gasoline by 1 January 1995. Moreover, the sulphur content of diesel oil is being reduced from 0.5 percent to 0.25 percent by 1 January 1995 with a target of 0.05 percent by the year 2000. The distillation point has been lowered to make the product lighter, this should help reduce the emission of sulphates, particulates and black smoke. More restrictive controls have also been placed on the level of benzene and aromatices in gasoline.

At present lignite fired power plants are the main source of sulphur dioxide emission in Thailand. Following incidents of atmospheric inversion in October 1992 at Mae Moh district, where the 2,000 MW lignite-fired power plant complex is located, the Thai Government immediately applied a short-term measure to rectify the situation by reducing electriciry generation according to the real-time measurement of sulphurdioxide concentration in Mae Moh. The government also ordered EGAT to install flue gas desulphurization units (FGD) in all new lignite-fired power plants to minimize emissions and to retrofit four existing unit FGDs. This is expected to reduce sulphurdioxide emission at Mea Moh by 50 percent.

Moreover, the government from now on will implement a more aggressive policy towards energy efficiency and conservation, which is the most direct way of reducting carbon dioxide emission, thereby alleviating global warming. After government approval at the end of 1991, EGAT recently launched a five year Demand Side Management Programme (DSM) which will provide financial incentives for projects to promote the construction of energy-efficient buildings and the use of energy efficient euipment and appliances. The programme will start with efficient lighting programme. At the end of the programme, EGAT expects to save over 300 MW of electricity while spending 4.8 billion bath and also expects that the programme will develop the utilites' ability to achieve much greater saving in the long term.


Conclusions

The energy security of the country has been achieved through developmint of the main domestic resources, namely natural gas, oil, and lignite. It is expected that more natural gas and lignite reserves will be identified and that dependency on imported energy will be further reduced.

Biomass, especially fuelwood, will still remain the main energy resource in rural areas of Thailand for the next two decades. Plantation of fast-growing trees can provide an alternative source of energy and help decrease deforestation. The large potential of hydro-power from domestic and international rivers can be utilized once environmental and political constraints are removed.

Domestic lignite and imported coal apprar to be the most viable alternative sources of energy for electric generation and industry. Technologies for pollution controls on their uses are already available. Large domestic reserves of oil shale can also be utilized when the proven shale oil extraction processes become economical in the future.

Domestic resources of solar energy and biomass, especially agricultural and industrial wastes, have high potentials for utilization snd viable technologies are being identified or developed. During the next decade, it may be stated with confidence that Thailand will have adequate energy supply for the development of the country.


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