Met-Chohm-Phuu (Appleseed) Biodiesel in Thailand

Creating Appleseed Biodiesel reactors in Thailand in rural areas for farmers with the PDA.... stories from a farang in Krabi... biodiesel back home in NC... and whatever else needs to be told online in my blog....

June 25, 2006

Best to start at the beginning....

Welcome everyone to my blog, my name’s Andy Shapiro. For a little background, I’m a senior in Environmental Health Science at UNC-CH. Age 22. Never made a blog before, but better late than never chai mai? So there's so much to tell in history, but so much more to come, lets start at the beginning.

A few years ago I studied abroad in Thailand at KMUTT University in Thonburi, Thailand. Thonburi is the other side of Bangkok, just a little ferry ride over the river Chao Praya. We studied biodiesel and the feasibility of using it in Thailand. I focused on using waste vegetable oil from food stalls to make biodiesel, but my fried, Allison, worked more on Jatropha (important later in the tale). I liked it there, and I especially enjoyed the food, and the aerobics in the park, and of course, my Thai girlfriend Far. Liking it so much, after returning to NC I hoped to go back the following summer. I emailed the PDA, Population and Community Development Association ( and got hooked up with a great internship for the summer of 2005. We worked on looking at a new feedstock, the plant Jatropha curcas, which can be grown in generally poor soils (as long as there's enough water) and can potentially create very high yields of oil, which can be used either in biodiesel or directly in an engine as fuel. PDA, seeing the potential this new crop has to offer, purchased 20,000 saplings which were distributed to farmers in Krabi, Southern Thailand who had been affected by the Tsunami in 2004. Great internship, I really enjoyed myself, and couldn't wait to get back to BKK.

School school school, study study study, blah blah blah, fast forward to Spring 2006. Enter the UNC Entrepreneurial Public Service Fellowship Program. This was a new fellowship that offers $3G to CH students with an innovative sustainable idea involving both public service and entrepreneurial ideas. In a frenzied think-fest at 3am one night, I though to myself, “hey self, I think you’ve got an idea that might work for this project.” Here’s what I was thinking:

This summer, as in summer of 2006, I will travel back to Thailand and build a small biodiesel reactor at the PDA’s field site in Krabi Thailand. I will be working with the PDA, and after finishing the PDA will continue to maintain the biodiesel reactor (sustainable). The biodiesel reactor will function as a prototype reactor, stationed neaby Jatrophasaplings planted last year by farmers and PDA. Farmers can bring their oil from the Jatropha plants and the PDA will create biodiesel from the oil. The farmers will then get biodiesel which was converted from their Jatropha oil, while PDA will retain around 20% of their biodiesel for cost compensation for the reaction, and then the farmer will have a product that is worth much more than the initial Jatropha seeds he/she started with. The PDA is left with lots of biodiesel which they can use in their own vehicles for more sustainable business practices (something the PDA is very keen on). Finally, farmers may be able to form co-ops and by pooling their biodiesel together, can either sell locally to those who are interested in purchasing a renewable diesel fuel, or even to a company in the area who’s looking for a new type of fuel. Win, win win. Everybody wins: I go back to Thailand (the selfish, personal reason), the PDA explores a new rural development project and gets some good fuel (the entrepreneurial reason), and farmers get a much more valuable product (the public service reason). Plus, mother nature digs biodiesel (the ultimate plus). And therefore, so does Al Gore (a convenient truth).

Well, I ended up getting the grant with a few other awesome students: among them the lovely Meg Eberle (co-founder of Zarkan fair-trade clothing company), Jonathan Pourzal (UNC Uganda Internship Program), and Daniellle Mouw ( Ele! Latin Dance Attire). More info can be found on each project at this website: We also met our gracious sponsor Donald P. Kanak, COO of AIG Insurance, ( and were on our way with our projects.

Although I just started this blog in June, I’ve been up to a lot here in the US since I received the fellowship in March. My hope is to recap what’s been done here, give a bit of general background on the different topics we’ll be working with, and also show different biodiesel setups I’ve visited in the Triangle area. When I travel to Thailand July 6th, I’ll continue to update the blog with new stories, pictures, and anecdotes of my travels, and of course, the biodiesel project that has since consumed my life!



  • At 8:43 AM, Anonymous sandeep said…

    hi, I m sandeep from mumbai India
    I m interested in starting a biodiesel plant of my own but I have very little knowledge about the field .
    I would be really grateful if u with ur knowledge can give me any information regarding this field.
    u can email me at


Post a Comment

<< Home