The Future of the Incineration Market in Thailand

By Michel Buron
March 2003

The Author is the founder and managing partner of BizAsia Network, a firm providing consulting, business and project development services in Asia in the fields of environmental technologies and green energy. → See also:


This paper intends to reveal elements to better understand the trends in the hazardous waste management in Thailand and projects the potential market for hazardous waste incinerator manufacturers.

Current situation

Thailand has a well developed industry with companies mostly localized in the central region of Thailand: vicinity of Bangkok, Samut Prakarn, Chonburi, Rayong and Chaochengsao provinces. The largest sectors are the chemical, petrochemical, petroleum, electric, electronic, cosmetic, food and beverage industries which are obviously generators of hazardous waste. The total quantity is unknown but studies estimate it to more than a million tons per year. A study from JICA, made in conjunction with the Department of Industrial Works during the year 2002, concluded that 300,000 tons of hazardous waste produced around the country was actually disposed through registered treatment centers, which represents only a small fraction of the total quantity generated in Thailand. The rest is assumed to be stored somewhere or simply thrown in illegal dumping sites.

The adoption of the environmental norm ISO14000 forces companies to go beyond compliance with the basic standards and to meet more stringent standards of their own. They also set targets to reduce their energy consumption and waste generation and finally force them to adopt good waste management practices. If some of the waste streams can be treated by the current infrastructure in place in Thailand, some specific waste streams (highly chlorinated waste, mercury waste, PCB) cannot be disposed properly forcing companies to invest in their own treatment plant (incinerators) or storage area (mercury, PCB). We estimate that 70,000 TPY of hazardous waste are burned on site by the industry. Fix grate, rotary kiln and fluidized bed are common technologies in use today. However the equipments are becoming obsolete and the flue gas treatment inadequate to meet a DRE of 99.9999% required by law in some cases (special category wastes). It is most likely that the incinerators in place will be shut down or will need to be upgraded or replaced in the near future.

Since 2002, the industry has a new option to dispose its wastes by the alternate fuel program (AFP). Indeed the cement industry received licenses to treat hazardous waste and provide a competitive solution for the disposal of hazardous waste.

Wastes used today as fuel in cement kilns include:

Evolution of waste management

The AFP is only at the beginning of its development. Theoretically cement kilns can produce quality clinker by substituting totally their fuel by waste which translates into huge potential treatment capacity of waste (sufficient to treat all the wastes generated in Thailand per year). The only limitations reside in the preparation of the waste in order to match the fuel specifications. The list of candidate materials for use in a waste fuel program was so far limited mainly to liquids but extra investment in solid alternate fuel preparation equipment expand its range. For example, filter cake is a newcomer to the waste fuel program. So far this waste material was traditionally sent to (secure) landfill.

It is obvious that more and more waste management companies will offer such services to their customers and that the disposal cost will be lower than in the past. Companies operating their own incinerator should welcome any proposal to dispose their wastes at a lower fee than their actual operating cost.

Future of incinerators

With the improvement of treatment facilities and the new role of cement kilns in the treatment of hazardous wastes in Thailand, the industry will largely benefit from lower disposal costs. Those who are operating incinerators on site will eventually close down their units and contract the disposal task to waste management firms. Except for difficult wastes, such as highly chlorinated streams, that will be expensive to send to the cement kiln or in the event that a company policy is to treat waste in situ (for confidentiality reasons, liabilities or else), the market for industrial hazardous waste incinerators is most likely to shrink in the near future. As none of the licensed plants in Thailand are able to accept highly hazardous waste, the Ministry of Industry (under the department of Industrial Works) is constructing an incinerator capable of handling 45 tons per day of hazardous to complement the actual facilities available in Thailand Based on the rotary kiln technology, it is designed to accept highly chlorinated substances and also process medical waste. Located in the Bang Poo Industrial Estate, it should be operational towards the middle of the 2004.


Obviously the future of onsite incinerators will depend mainly on its (economical) competitiveness with other disposal methods, but the arrival of the cement kilns on the market has brought along a serious competitor for manufacturers of incinerators. Opportunistic approach of the Thai market is most likely to fail and result in losses of time and effort. We recommend strongly to manufacturers to spend sufficient time upfront to analyze the market, setup a clear market strategy and determine the proper market segments where they should focus their resources.


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