Small-scale and Low-cost Charcoal Production in Thailand as an Alternative Source of Renewable Energy and Income in Rural Areas

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In Thailand, charcoal made out of wood used to be an important energy source for domestic purposes such as cooking. It has then been progressively replaced by Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) due to its convenience. But in recent years, energy supply shortages and environmental concerns have raised the government’s interest for renewable energies. In a Royal Project an innovative and low-cost charcoal production system from biomass wastes has been developed.

This charcoal production system utilizes a 200 liter steel drum as the pyrolysis chamber and sand is used as isolation material to obtain higher temperature in the pyrolysis chamber. As a result, the quality of the produced charcoal is much higher than the one produced traditionally. Since the charcoal contains negative-charged (negative) ions, its advantages are multiple. First,rural households can either use it as cooking material or sell it to earn additional revenues.Secondly, the charcoal contains no tars resulting from more complete pyrolysis process, whichallows it to burn without emitting too much harmful gases and it produces also less ashes, whichis healthier and more energy efficient. Third, the negative ion charcoal can also be used as anelectromagnetic wave dissipating bracelet, necklace or pillow. This system can also produce avaluable byproduct: wood vinegar. Wood vinegar can be used for organic pest control andfertilization. If the system is located in the orchard, the smoke can repeal insects from theorchard and increases carbon dioxide for the photosynthesis. At last, this charcoal pyrolysissystem is proved to be more sustainable and relevant in poor rural areas, since it makes use ofsmall branches from tree pruning to produce charcoal, as well as short life circle plants such asbamboo. Therefore, it can reduce deforestation and it is not an economic burden for theproducers.However, this system can still be improved to achieve higher temperature by using betterisolating materials. This pyrolysis system has proved to have both economic and environmentaladvantages and should therefore be highly promoted among rural populations. Therefore, moreresearch and experiments should be carried out to improve the pyrolysis process in order tomake it even more efficient and profitable.

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