Comparative life cycle assessment of rice husk utilization in Thailand

Prasara-A, J 2009, Comparative life cycle assessment of rice husk utilization in Thailand, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Comparative life cycle assessment of rice husk utilization in Thailand
Author(s) Prasara-A, J
Year 2009
Abstract Thailand is one of the largest rice producing nations in the world. Moreover, there is a trend for Thai rice exports to increase. This could imply that if the trend continues, there will be an increased quantity of rice husk in the future. Rice husk is a co-product of rice products generated in the rice milling process, accounting for about 23 percent of the total paddy weight. To make use of this large quantity of rice husk, the husk has traditionally been used as an energy source in the rice mills themselves. More recently, the Thai government has promoted the use of biomass to substitute for fossil fuel consumption and to reduce the environmental impacts caused by using fossil fuels. Therefore, rice husk, which is one of the main sources of biomass in Thailand, has already been used on a commercial scale. However, the environmental impacts associated with different rice husk applications have not yet been widely investigated in the Thai context. While there is a need to find ways of dealing with rice husk disposal, it is also important to ensure that this husk is used in ways that harm the environment least.

This research aims to identify the most environmentally friendly use of rice husk for Thailand. To achieve this, the research is divided into three main stages; identification of main current and potential uses of rice husk in Thailand; data collection; and data analysis using Life Cycle Analysis approach. A range of methods such as literature review, questionnaires with rice mill owners, and interviews with industry personnel, were used to help in identifying the current and potential uses of rice husk. The major current and potential rice husk uses chosen to be examined in this research are those uses of rice husk in electricity generation, in cement manufacture and in cellulosic ethanol production. The second stage is to collect detailed data about the processes of the selected rice husk uses to be examined. This was undertaken by literature review, questionnaires and interviews with involved industry personnel. The last stage is to analyse the data collated. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach and the L CA software package SimaPro (version 7.1.6) were used to assess the environmental impacts of the selected rice husk uses.

Results from the LCA are reviewed in the context of critical policy issues, including the Thai government biomass policies; the capacity of the production process of rice husk use options; and the infrastructure availability and practicality of the rice husk use options. Based on the goal and scope of the study, the data available for this study and the review of the issues just mentioned, it is concluded that, in the short term, the most practical environmentally friendly use of rice husk across the three uses investigated is the use of rice husk in electricity generation. However, with expected oil shortages in the future, rice husk should also be considered for use in cellulosic ethanol production, as this option helps to save some amount of petrol.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Agricultural waste
Energy policy
Life cycle assessment
Rice husk
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