Vietnam has great potential in the development of biofuels but the use of this kind of energy remains limited, according to the Vietnam Economic News on April 16.

Every year, Vietnam still exports millions of tonnes of raw cassava to other countries for producing ethanol. In order to promote the development of the biofuel industry, the prime minister signed Decision 177/2007/QD-TTg on “the project of developing biofuels by 2015 with a vision to 2025.”

Head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Science and Technology Department Nguyen Dinh Hiep said Vietnam has successfully carried out research and mixed some kinds of biofuels like E5 (petrol containing five percent of ethanol), E10, E15 and E20 and launched pilot sales at 160 stores nationwide. The biggest advantages of using bio-fuel are to reduce from 27-44 percent of the gases causing the greenhouse effect and also to save fuels compared with using other ordinary petrols.

According to the experts from Hanoi University of Science and Technology and the Centre for Technology Application and Transfer under the Vietnam Petroleum Institute, the E5, even E10 and E20 in conventional engines which are popular in Vietnam will not fundamentally affect the vehicle 's features. Using the biofuels even helps motorcycles and automobiles start and speed up better.

In particular, with materials mainly from industrial production, the development of biofuels can stimulate agricultural production and expand markets for agricultural products in the country. Pham Anh Tuan, CEO of Phuong Dong Biofuel Company said if cassava production remains stable, about 300 thousand households or 1.2 million people, most of them living in remote areas and so poor will stabilise their lives.

Recognising the importance of biofuel to the energy security issue, the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PVN) has worked out a roadmap to develop biofuel with a target by 2015 with a vision until 2025 to develop biofuels which can ensure energy security, improve the environment and increase incomes for farmers.

To accomplish this goal, PVN and Petro Vietnam Oil Corporation have put into operation three projects on producing ethanol biofuels with capacity of 300,000 cu.m per year, including Phu Tho Ethanol Plant (Tam Nong district, Phu Tho province), Quang Ngai Ethanol Plant (Dung Quat Economic Zone, Quang Ngai province) and Binh Phuoc Ethanol Plant (Bu Dang district, Binh Phuoc province).

According to PVN, the government has granted permission to build six ethanol plants using cassava chips as raw materials which helped cassava farmers in neighboring provinces stabilize production and lives.

However, finding markets and consumers at present remain limited, resulting in difficulties for the government to draw a roadmap for using biofuels across the country. According to experts, Vietnam needs to develop the distribution systems across the country, and raise people’s awareness of the benefits when using the biofuels.

The nation now has six ethanol plants with a total capacity of 535 million liters a year. Of these, domestic consumption accounts for 20 percent and the remainder is exported to Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Philippines. According to the government’s roadmap, the E5 bio-petrol will be used in seven cities and provinces and across Vietnam in 2015. From the end of 2017, bio-petrol E10 will also be used across the country.-VNA