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Palm Oil Waste Can Provide Thailand with Energy, Jobs, Water

Thailand is finding ways to turn a big problem—2.5 million cubic meters of waste water generated from palm oil mills and around 12 million ton fresh fruit bunch (FFB) of waste—into a source of energy, water and employment.

Methane capture projects (MCP) have been established in Krabi and Trang provinces. MCPs recycle the waste water and use the GHGs emitted from the mills to produce electricity, which has supplied 2000 households in the rural areas of Krabi province. MCPs are expected to reduce 90,000 tons of carbon foot print every year.

It's also created both jobs and job training programs:

"Private companies have taken up training projects for the management and employees, indicating that the poor unskilled laborers might also get jobs in the MCPs."

The clean water generated by MCPs both ensures a safer drinking water supply for the poor and also a more consistent farming water supply for farmers:

"The recycling of water waste reduces the risk of pollution of water bodies which is the main source of drinking water of the poor."

"Palm oil plantations face water shortages for first four to five months of the year, leading to decrease in the yield. The majority of cultivators, who are generally poor farmers, run the risk of huge debts The contaminated water can also have a negative impact on the quality and quantity of the yield. Clean water generated from the MCPs and availability of water around the year will help in increasing the yield and hence increase in the average income of the small farmers."

Implications:

According to SFG, MCPs are very scalable in South Thailand because they generate profits quickly after being set up, making them an attractive project for foreign companies (who have not yet started investing heavily). Also, the Thai government has been "participating with the private companies for the promotion of MCPs."

"The investment involved in the MCPs on an average is THB 75.56 million (USD 2.23 million) and the revenue generated from the selling of electricity is approximately USD 1.08 million every year. The short gestation period can attract a number of foreign companies in the MCP projects. At present, few foreign companies have started investing in the MCPs."

MCPS will also, according to SFG, help reduce poverty as well as environmental damage.

"With the increase in number of MCPs the palm oil waste can be reduced significantly in coming years...The reduction in the GHGs will slow down the environmental impact of these gases."

"If the MCP initiative is successful many people will economically benefit in the coming years. MCPs can generate employment for skilled as well as semi-skilled labor force... This will help in the reduction of poverty levels in the conflict prone southern Thailand in coming years."

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Sources:

SFG June 2011, page 18:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_June 2011.pdf#page=18