Transforming wastewater into clean energy

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07.12.2012
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Reduction of gas emissions and improvement of the population’s living standards

BIO signed a credit facility agreement worth EUR 1.37 million with Thai Biogas Energy Co Ltd (TBEC), to finance the first ever biogas installation in Lao. Wastewater from Lao Indochina Group Co Ltd (LIG), a starch manufacturer processing cassava roots bought mainly from smallholders, will be transformed into gas and replace the coal used so far by clean and cheap energy. As a result, LIG will continue to play its critical role as processor for the country’s smallholder community while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The project will also contribute to the elimination of bad smell by expanding the wastewater treatment tanks, and enable the production of natural fertilizer from the remaining sludge. This innovative project will improve the living conditions of the population and increase the income of the smallholders and the factory staff.


LIG is a 100% Lao company specialised in cassava starch, commonly known as “tapioca”. Tapioca is used worldwide as a thickening agent and the demand is very high. The factory’s total capacity is 2,400 tons of fresh cassava equalling an output of up to 600 tons of tapioca a day. LIG sources cassava from a plantation area of about 13,500 hectares, which provides employment to about 4,800 families in more than 270 villages. Without the factory buying their crops, the farmers would see their income reduced significantly.

TBEC, a Thai company specialized in biogas will build, own and operate the biogas installation, ensuring its long-term durability. The plant will anaerobically* treat wastewater, capture biogas, and sell it back to LIG as a replacement for coal, at reduced prices. As a result, the tapioca factory will profit from a cheaper and clean fuel that is available at all times, thus significantly cutting its greenhouse gas emissions. Important to mention is that, as the wastewater will be cleaned in a controlled reactor, the rotten egg smell will be eliminated, hence improving the living environment for local factory staff, farmers and residents.

Besides the environmental impact, the project will create direct employment for nearby residents and bring in technology transfer. Also, the increased effectiveness of the tapioca factory will improve competitiveness of the national starch industry.

“In addition to our environmental concerns, we value the living conditions of the residents and factory staff as equally essential”, says Mr. Godenhielm, Managing Director of TBEC. He adds: “This project will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, equal to gas emissions from 20,000 cars. It will also allow us to control the quality of the wastewater of LIG in terms of organic contents, and to eliminate the smell and hydrogen sulphide that so far has been released in the air.”

“In the wake of the Doha Climate Change Conference, we as a development finance institution want to be among the leaders in supporting projects that help fighting climate change. This project in one of the neediest countries in Asia shows that you can achieve a strong local development impact both on social and economic levels, and at the same time tackle global challenges that may affect the lives of everyone of us“, concludes Luuk Zonneveld, BIO’s newly appointed CEO.

* Anaerobic digestion is a bacterial process that is carried out in the absence of oxygen. One of its major features is the production of biogas.

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