Vernicia oil to power vehicles in Laos

The Luang Prabang Teak Tree Import and Export Company hopes to be the first company in the world to produce bio-diesel from Vernicia ( mak kao ) oil, if the Lao government certifies the quality of the product.

The company will sign a memorandum of understanding with the government to test the quality of the bio-diesel produced from Vernicia as a source of renewable energy.

The trial will run for a period of two years with the oil to be tested in various vehicles, over which time the government will monitor the performance of the vehicles, according to the company.

During this period, the government will permit the company to export the product to overseas markets in order to raise funds to carry out the project, company Vice President Mr Bounchan Xaykeryachongtour told Vientiane Timesyesterday.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines and company representatives met with officials from the relevant government organisations on Tuesday to discuss the potential of bio-diesel extracted from Vernicia and the most effective way to promote its use.

The government believes Laos may be the first country to produce bio-diesel from Vernicia trees as they do not know of any other countries doing so, or the reasons why.

In cooperation with a technology institute and experts from Vietnam, the company began encouraging people to grow Vernicia in 2009 and have been collecting the oil for bio-diesel since that time.

The company is currently encouraging people in the central and northern provinces to grow 12,380 hectares of Vernicia trees, with most of them in Luang Prabang, Huaphan and Xieng Khuang provinces.

It also has a processing unit in Luang Prabang, which can produce 100 litres of oil a day, which will be upgraded to produce one tonne per day, Mr Bounchan said.

“We have already tested the quality of both the B10 and B100 biodiesel varieties in vehicles and tractors and have not encountered any problems yet,” he said.

Vernicia waste is also used to produce fertiliser, raw material for animal feed and bio-concrete roofing tiles, he added.

Bio-diesel is in high demand around the world but Lao people are not confident about its quality because there are no guaranteed standards yet.

Last year, the Lao State Fuel Company signed an agreement to buy about 50,000 tonnes of Vernicia oil from the company, which it expects to supply within the next year, Mr Bounchan said.

A Japanese company is also interested in their product but they are still in discussions about the cost.

The government intends to promote bio-diesel use in Laos, to reduce dependence on fuel imports and cater to future demand, according to the Renewable Energy Promotion Department of the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The government plans to increase the rate of renewable energy usage to 30 percent of all energy sources and it is expected bio-diesel will supply 10 percent of that figure.

Laos has yet to adopt a standard when it comes to using bio-diesel within the country, despite the fact some foreign companies have already invested in palm oil and jatropha plantations to produce this kind of fuel.

vientiane times

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