EARTH Thailand

Ethanol plant partly closed after toxic emissions

Bangkok Post 26 November 2016

An ethanol factory in Suphan Buri has been ordered to partly suspend operations until it corrects procedures after local residents complained of hydrogen sulfide emissions.

An Industry Ministry inspection at the plant of SET-listed Thai Agro Energy Plc (TAE) in Dan Chang district found hydrogen sulfide levels exceeded the allowable limit. It ordered the factory to close parts of its operation to solve the problem by Dec 26, said Acting Sub Lt Supeepat Chongpanich, the governor of Suphan Buri.

The investigation revealed that the poisonous gas had accumulated in a treatment pond containing wastewater released from the plant as well as rainwater from a severe storm on Oct 7. 

The gas inflated the canvas covering the treatment pond, increasing the pressure inside the pond to a risky level, so the company decided to release the gas into the air and burn it, creating a foul odour that disturbed nearby residents. 

Officials said the company had installed one more pipe to remove around 3,800 cubic metres of gas per hour from the pond. It has also added chlorine powder to the pond to eradicate microorganisms, reducing gas generation.

The company expects the disturbing gas smell will be diminished in five to seven days.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colourless gas with a characteristic foul odour of rotten eggs. It is heavier than air, poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive

Established in October 2001, TAE received a licence to produce ethanol in 2003 and opened its first plant using molasses as raw material in 2005. The company received an ethanol export licence in 2007 and in 2012 it opened a second production line, bringing its capacity to 200,000 litres a day.

TAE was listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in June 2014. In the first nine months of this year it reported a net profit of 168.5 million baht, compared with 215.2 million in the same period a year earlier.