The project members have much to discuss in order to achieve success in this big, cross-border project.
While Tanaka was spending all his time doing experiments at Torishima Test Field, Nishida, another member of the project team, was pursuing market research in anticipation of successful development of the technology. Nishida's strategy targeted overseas markets from the beginning because Japan had a limited supply of biogas to upgrade. Among others, he set his eyes on Thailand, which world ranked third in palm oil production and second in cassava production. Nishida considered that this country had a rich source of agricultural residue from which biogas could be obtained. Another advantage of Thailand was the widespread use of natural gas vehicles, which could use CBG as a fuel. He also guessed that the government-led promotion of the use of CBG, as mentioned above, must be a favorable factor.
Nishida began his market research in Thailand by listing palm oil and cassava factories as biogas sources and visited them door to door. His visits had two purposes: to determine if local factories had the ability to supply materials for biogas and to ask promising factories for their cooperation in a local pilot test. Osaka Gas (Thailand) Co., Ltd., a Daigas Group company there, helped Nishida with the research. In a foreign land where he did not know how to get around and sometimes could not communicate in English, he felt encouraged to have the support of the staff of the local subsidiary. However, things did not go smoothly. Most of the factories were hard to access. Sometimes a five-hour drive for a factory visit turned out to be a complete waste of time. Still, Nishida continued his visit around the country, believing that somewhere there was a factory that would be sympathetic to this project. And he finally found one—ABC, a palm oil manufacturer.
ABC had been actively working on using energy more effectively, including power generation with biogas from its factory wastewater and selling the electricity to local power companies. In those days, ABC was planning to expand its factory, but it had no chance of selling more electricity to the power companies. ABC was facing the problem of how to deal with excess biogas as a result its factory expansion. Osaka Gas's proposal was a very timely offer to ABC. Discussions between the two went very smoothly. They agreed to build a pilot biogas upgrading facility on the premises of ABC's factory and conduct a one-year pilot testing program there.
It was great to have secured a pilot testing partner, but the process of building the pilot testing facility was an even tougher task. The test equipment Tanaka had developed at Torishima Test Field was only small in scale. A pilot testing facility to be operated for a long period was another story. The world had never seen such a facility. Project team members had never built one, and they were trying to make it happen in a foreign country. This was an unprecedented project for Osaka Gas. Tanaka started off by looking for a local manufacturer to which he could subcontract the fabrication. Under heavy pressure to complete this overseas project he could not afford to fail, Tanaka took charge of the entire process from facility design to construction management, and successfully managed to get the facility completed by the starting day of the pilot testing.
Construction site of the pilot testing facility
In November 2017, Osaka Gas posted a press release: "Pilot Project Launched in Thailand to Explore Biogas Refining and Vehicle Natural Gas Fuel Supply for Future Commercial Usage. "In Thailand, an opening ceremony for the pilot testing facility was held with Thai government officials invited as guests, and the event was shown on TV in the country. At the ceremony, Tanaka and Nishida reflected on the hectic days they had spent leading to the opening of the facility, and renewed their strong determination to make the coming pilot testing a success.