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....

August 11, 2006

Awaiting the Arrival of the Machine...

Krabi Town and Peaks

I’m down in Krabi again with a friend from Chapel Hill, Jordan Shakelford, and the countdown has begun. We’re busy getting the site ready, buying carts, barrels, water jugs, and all those things which I have no idea how to explain in Thai. When we go shopping I’m constantly playing a game of Pictionary: 1 word, red, electricity, looks like this. Amazingly, we generally find with we need, although we are both tired from trying to understand what the other person is trying to say [we in this case is the PDA driver P’Mak, who helps me find exactly what I need]

So here’s an instance where I wish I spoke Thai better; throughout the planning period for this project when I was in the US I was told that there were plenty of buildings in the PDA Krabi Center where the biodiesel reactor could be stored. Naturally, I didn’t include a storage facility in my proposed budget, and sent this budget to the PDA. When I arrived in Krabi, I found in fact that there was no building ready and that I should construct a building. I drew up a building plan (never done that before), submitted it, and then allocated $500 of my money, money I was supposed to keep, but instead give it to the PDA to help purchase the building. A contractor came and found that the building would cost upwards of $4000, well beyond the budget of my grant (and almost 2x the cost of the biodiesel infrastructure!) Now people believe that I went over budget, but I never had a building in my proposed plan in the first place! Hopefully PDA will use their funds to help support the building project, for now we'll be testing and construcing beside the mushroom building.

View of a Phuket Roof

This is a three day weekend, in celebration of the Queens Birthday on Monday the 12th. I’m finally getting my first bai tiaow (vacation) trip outside of Bangkok. I’ll be going to Phuket with some friends, hopefully getting my pasty butt into the water to get a tan and maybe even some sea kayaking. Relaxation, sun, sand, tourists, and expensive prices- I can’t wait….

But on the night of the 12th the biodiesel reactor and custom built tanks will arrive at the Krabi field site. Jordan and I will probably pull an all-nighter to assemble all the precious parts of pieces of the reactor, so it will be ready to use on Tuesday morning. At that point we should have 200 liters of refined palm oil shipped to us for testing. How’d we get this oil you ask?!? Khun Mechai, chairman of the PDA, happens to be the chairman of the board of directors of a palm oil company. So we get palm oil, and lots of it, for really cheap.

We’re also in the process of making a big instructions/user guide for the biodiesel reactor. We’ve made a hefty users guide, the field manual version, drawings and explanations for biodiesel basics, material compatibility guides, economic forecasts, schedules for producing biodiesel, and even pictures for the manual. It’s a big undertaking, but I feel like we should be done by the time we leave the Krabi center. The whole time we’ll be partnering with the resident technician, P’Mak, so the knowledge we share will be known to PDA long after I leave the country.

Am I excited? Yes. Am I worried? Nitnoi (a little). But I can’t wait for Monday for the real fun to begin. I’m counting down the days….


  • At 1:20 AM, Anonymous eliz. pratt said…

    That is a beautiful biodiesel reactor if i may say so myself! Man it sounds like you're having to fight for every little bit! Can't wait to hear how the first batch goes.


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