Biogas technology as a solution for wastewater treatment in Lao PDR

Livestock plays importance role to Lao people’s livelihood. It contributes to food security, enhance crop production, generate cash incomes for rural and urban populations.  Livestock practice was changed year by year, depend on economic growth, increasing of population and the meat consumption demand. The commercial livestock farm significantly rapidly expand in the last two decade to support the government’s target in increasing domestic production of livestock for meat consumption to 22-50 kg in rural areas and 33-70 kg in urban areas by 2020. Increasing of commercial livestock farm, particularly pig farm, is driven from financial support from government and contract-farming scheme between farmer and CP Lao company. CP Lao is a subsidiary of Thailand’s listed Charoen Pokphand Foods. Under the contract, the company provides piglets and feed. The farmer build pig pen in accordance with technical guideline from the company, feeds the piglets then sell them back to company. Up to now more than 100 farmers in Vientiane, Savannakhet , Champasak and Khammuan have joined CP’s contract-farming arrangements.

Most of the water used for livestock drinking and servicing returns to the environment in the form of manure and wastewater. Livestock excreta contain a considerable amount of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium), drug residues, heavy metals and pathogens. If these get into the water or accumulate in the soil, they can pose serious threats to the environment (Gerber and Menzi, 2005). In Laos, the wastes from livestock farm commonly manage by using opened lagoon. With longtime accumulate, wastewater and bad smell were generated, sometime the wastewater flow out the lagoon into nearby rice field and/or river. High containing of Phosphorus and Nitrogen in wastewater resulting to water pollution and lands degrade by nutrient surplus. Almost all livestock farm received complains from the people living nearby the farm because of emitting bad smell, agriculture land degraded and natural water pollutant.

Opened lagoon using for storage the wastewater from livestock farm.
Opened lagoon using for storage the wastewater from livestock farm.


The large scale biogas technology for wastewater was introduced to Laos in the year 2009.  Currently, there are two examples of applying biogas technology to solve the environment problem and energy production in Laos. One is applying biogas technology to treat wastewater from starch factory at Indo-China Starch Factory in Vientiane capital. The wastewater amount of 5,600 m3 feeds to biogas digester every day and produced biogas 28,000 m3 per day.  The produced gas is burned as substitute fuel to coal to dry starch.

The second one is applying biogas technology to treat wastewater from pig farm in Phonhong district, Vientiane province. The biogas digester with the volume of 2,500 m3 was installed at a large pig farm with 4,000 heads of pigs. The produced gases use as fuel to generate electricity with install capacity of 260 KW, then supply produced electricity to farm facilities.

Based on beneficial of biogas technology in wastewater treatment and energy production, the Institute of Renewable Energy Promotion (IREP) intended to promote utilization of biogas technology in large scale livestock farm particularly the pig farm that have 1,000 heads of pig and above. IREP is an organization under Ministry of Energy and Mine. Has mandate in formulate and improve laws and regulations, standards, procedure and guidelines to facilitate renewable energy development. IREP interested to participate in ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology (S&T) Fellowship program to take this opportunity to formulate the appropriated mechanism to promote biogas utilization in large scale livestock farm with Lao’s contexts. Therefore IREP became a host institute for an ASEAN-U.S. S&T fellow 2016.

As I am a ASEAN-U.S. S&T fellow in sustainable energy area, within one year of working program, I will study more detail in potentials, barriers, challenges and opportunities in technical, financial and policy aspect in the country and ASEAN countries. I belief that through one year of my fellow I can server and contribute my input to IREP in formulation of appropriate mechanism to promote biogas utilization in the country which it is a part of country contributes to ASEAN to achieve  the goal of greenhouse gas mitigation and increase renewable energy utilization.


About the Author:

Mr. Houmpheng Theuambounmy is 2016-2017 ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellow working under Sustainable Energy thematic area. Houmpheng has Renewable Energy Technology background. He received M.Sc. in Renewable Energy Technology from Naresuan University, Thailand in 2000. Houmpheng is a Director of Alternative Energy Division, Renewable Energy and New Materials Institute, Ministry of Science and Technology. Under this Fellowship, Houmpheng is currently working with the Institute of Renewable Energy Promotion, Ministry of Energy and Mines.