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Raw Material Safety Analysis of Thai Wood Pellet Production (Part 1)

Date: 11/26/2020 08:46:51 From: Clicks:

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1. Introduction

The safety of raw materials is one of the important factors for the sustainability of biomass renewable energy. Some studies have solved the problem of the safety of raw materials for biofuels and bioenergy. Research has been conducted on the potential of biomass for energy production in China's terrestrial ecosystem to solve the problem of biomass shortage, which is an obstacle to the development of China's bioeconomy and bioenergy industry. Thai researchers studied the safety of raw material supply in the future production of bioethanol in Thailand. They pointed out that to meet the long-term demand for bioethanol, it is necessary to increase the high yield of raw materials. In addition, a quantitative study of the biomass potential of India for energy and biofuel production found that energy crops and agricultural and forestry residues are important potential raw materials. A number of studies have shown that from an environmental perspective, using residues is better than cutting standing trees. The increase in production and good management will improve the energy performance of Brachycarpus indica. The results of a study showed that agricultural technical factors, plant types and harvest cycles not only affect yield, but also affect the qualitative characteristics of short-rotation dwarf willow biomass . The use of pellets and agglomerates can reduce the impact of limited transportation, but the total fuel cost may increase compared to using only wood residues. Appropriate raw material supply mode can increase the profit of biomass plants, biomass supply and farmers' participation. From the perspective of energy production, different harvesting methods affect efficiency. The efficiency of the whole tree harvesting type is significantly higher than that of the non-peeling harvesting type of stems. In addition, when replacing conventional fossil fuels in heat and electricity applications, short-rotation woody crops can achieve more than 80% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings.

Wood Pellet Production
Wood Pellet Production

Considering the above reasons, the main purpose of this study is to analyze the safety of raw materials for the production of wood pellets in Thailand. The important issue of raw material safety analysis involves the availability and diversity of stocked raw materials in order to meet domestic targets and export demand, so as to meet the future growth in demand for wood pellets. In addition, if the goal of energy use is to reduce fossil use, the potential of biomass feedstock is related to energy security. The results of this study will provide new references for the future development of the renewable energy industry. Even if the study is based on the case of Thailand, the findings and insights of the study will support the management of wood pellet production materials in other regions with similar climate and production conditions.

2. Materials and Method

An important indicator for evaluating the safety of raw materials is the quantity and type of wood raw materials sufficient to produce wood pellets to meet the demand.

2.1. Evaluation of wood pellet production

Thailand’s wood pellet production statistics have not yet been compiled in an organized manner. However, the export and domestic use of wood pellets can be considered to estimate production. The export data of wood pellets can be obtained from the Thai customs website. The entrepreneurs interviewed revealed that they only sell 20% of all wood pellet products for household use. Therefore, assume that 80% of wood pellets are exported.

2.2. Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis is a tool to analyze how the different values of an independent variable affect a specific dependent variable under certain exact assumptions. In general, its aims are to analyze the data for the decision problem and to create a necessary decision model. It is used in several fields, for example, economics, biology, geography and engineering. In this study, sensitivity analysis is used for testing the assumptions related to the wood pellet production in Thailand. The quantity of wood pellet production can refer to the quantity of feedstock, which is one of the indicators of sustainable wood pellet production. Domestic use and exports govern the demand of wood pellet production. Hence, domestic use and export of wood pellets are important factors to evaluate the quantity of wood pellets per year. Sensitivity analyses help to calculate the minimum and maximum values of wood pellet production under demand from domestic use and export. The variation in wood pellet demand was evaluated by increasing (+10%) the export and domestic use (tonne). The maximum quantity of wood pellet production helped to evaluate the sufficiency of raw materials. However, the wood pellet demand was also evaluated based on the policy of importers and the Thai government. Two-way sensitivity analysis is identified as the interaction effect between the increase in wood pellet export and domestic use. The increases in wood pellet export and domestic use were determined with a maximum of +150% to present the quantity of feedstock.

2.3. Evaluating the Potential Amount and Proportion of Feedstocks

The potential amount of wood (main feedstock) was analyzed because it is important for increasing the wood pellet production. The potential amount of wood or waste wood in the past was considered to prepare and plan for an increase in wood pellet production in the future, which is forecast by sensitivity analysis. The potential amount of feedstock was converted from the product by a conversion factor which was subtracted from the total amount of feedstock. The net feedstock balance was calculated by subtracting the projected feedstock requirements in the future from the estimated available feedstock resource. The available feedstocks for wood pellet production were estimated from the following equation:


where PQi is the potential amount of feedstock i for wood pellet production in the country (tonne/year), TQi is the total amount of feedstock i in the country for a period (tonne/year), CFij is the conversion factor to convert amount of feedstock i for producing product j, DDomestic i,j is the total demand of product j for domestic consumption (tonne/year), and DExport i,j is the total demand of product j for export (tonne/year). Quantity of wood and waste wood data were collected from the related organizations. The data of wood pellet production were surveyed by questionnaires from farmers and wood pellet manufactures. The average conversion factor was calculated from five wood pellet factories having different processes and raw materials (Table 1).

Table 1. Conversion factor from five wood pellet factories.

Factories A B C D F
Raw material (tonne) 23 150 217 112 60
Product (tonne) 14 110 128 70 40
Conversion factor
(Raw material/one tonne of wood pellets)
1.64 1.36 1.70 1.60 1.50
Average of conversion factor 1.56 ± 0.13

2.4. Shannon Index—The Diversity of Supply

The diversity of feedstock supply relating to the feedstock security was calculated by the Shannon–Wiener index. This index, applied to evaluate the long term security of supply and the diverse distributions of energy flows in a system, can open up more possibilities and channels for cooperation and interdependency in energy utilization. Moreover, the diversity of the demand side, which is critical for an energy system because increasing variance and balance of the energy consumers enhances efficiency and adaptability, can be calculated by the Shannon–Wiener index as follows:


where H is the feedstock supply security indicator, pi is the share of fuel i in the energy mix or the market share of supplier i and, i is the feedstock source index.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Wood Pellet Production in Thailand

Thailand has 44 wood pellet factories, most of them set in the south and central region. The wood pellet factories in the south of Thailand use para-rubber waste wood as raw material and in the other regions use whichever waste wood is available. Quantity of wood pellet export from Thailand decreased in 2015–2016 (as shown in Figure 1) because the price of wood pellets was higher than that in Vietnam. Since 2017, the quantity of wood pellet export continued to grow. South Korea and Japan are the major importers. Japan increased the import of wood pellets from Thailand in 2019 (Figure 2). From interviewing entrepreneurs who produce the wood pellets, it was found that in 2018, 80% of the wood pellet production was exported, and only 20% was for domestic use. Hence, the production of wood pellets in Thailand can be estimated at 361,600 tonnes in 2018 and 215,600 tonnes in 2019.

Figure 1. Quantity of wood pellet export and import of Thailand in 2014–2019.
Quantity of wood pellet export and import of Thailand in 2014–2019

Figure 2. Proportion of importers of wood pellets from Thailand in 2018–2019.
Proportion of importers of wood pellets from Thailand in 2018–2019

3.2. Evaluating of Wood Pellet Demand in Thailand

To evaluate the potential of feedstock for wood pellet production, sensitivity analysis is used for forecasting the wood pellet demand. The wood pellet demand in Thailand consists of demand from export and domestic use. Evaluating of wood pellet demand when export and domestic use increase is shown in Table 2. The results show that if the export increases by 100% of export in 2018 and domestic use increases by 100% of the domestic use in 2018, the wood pellet demand will become 723,000 tonnes. Although the wood pellet demand in Thailand fluctuates depending on several factors (policy for domestic use, the demand of importer and competition of other countries), it can be predicted to be within a range of 398,000 to 904,000 tonnes.

Table 2. Evaluating of wood pellet demand by increasing export and domestic use (tonne).

Wood Pellet Production Increasing of Domestic Use
Increasing of Export 10% 25% 50% 75% 100% 120% 150%
10% 398,000 409,000 427,000 445,000 463,000 477,000 499,000
25% 441,000 452,000 470,00 488,000 506,000 521,000 542,000
50% 514,000 524,000 542,000 561,000 579,000 593,000 615,000
75% 586,000 597,000 615,000 633,000 651,000 665,000 687,000
100% 658,000 669,000 687,000 705,000 723,000 738,000 759,000
120% 716,000 727,000 745,000 763,000 781,000 796,000 817,000
150% 803,000 814,000 832,000 850,000 868,000 882,000 904,000

However, the trend of wood pellet demand in Thailand can be estimated from exports in the future related to the industrial demand of the main importers, South Korea and Japan (99% of wood pellet export), as shown in Figure 2, and the domestic use in Thailand (Table 3). In 2022, the wood pellet demand in Japan will become higher than South Korea by about 200,000 tonnes owing to new power plants coming into operation. The domestic use in Thailand focuses on heat production because the Thai government supports using wood pellets only for heat. The results indicate that the wood pellet demand for Thailand in 2025 will surge to 582,000 tonnes.

Table 3. Evaluation of wood pellet demand based on policy of importers and Thai government (tonne).

  2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
Forecast of Wood Pellet Industrial Demand in South Korea and Japan
Japan 2,200,000 3,100,000 4,300,000 5,100,000 6,600,000 6,800,000
South Korea 3,400,000 3,700,000 4,100,000 4,500,000 5,200,000 5,500,000
Total Import 1,870,000 1,870,000 4,870,000 4,870,000 4,870,000 4,870,000
Import from Thailand 1 89,000 89,000 232,000 232,000 232,000 232,000
South Korea
Total Import 2 3,230,000 3,520,000 3,900,000 4,280,000 4,940,000 5,230,000
Import from Thailand 3 129,000 141,000 156,000 171,000 198,000 209,000
Demand from main exporters 218,000 230,000 388,000 403,000 430,000 441,000
Demand from domestic use 4 87,500 96,300 106,000 116,000 128,000 141,000
Total wood pellet
Demand in Thailand
305,500 326,300 494,000 519,000 558,000 582,000

More: Raw Material Safety Analysis of Thai Wood Pellet Production (Part 2)

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