India anticipates reaping rewards from its aggressive jatropha program

By | October 14, 2009
India has taken sharp steps to promote the production and use of biodiesel by removing import duties, ending the excise tax on B100, and even giving benefits to blended fuels. In addition, the country has an aggressive jatropha cultivation program, said Sandeep Chaturvedi, president of the Biodiesel Association of India, which is helping to create jobs for the world's second largest population, 25 percent of which lives below the poverty line. "It will be a few more years until we see results from jatropha, so we are keeping going with used cooking and industrial oils," he said. "India has a capacity for biodiesel production that is nearly 3,000 tons (just under a million gallons) per day, but we are only operating at about 10 percent of that volume."

Nearly all of the nations with significant biodiesel production capacity are operating well below peak, but the development of second-generation technologies and feedstocks remains strong. India's Center for Jatropha Promotion and Biodiesel (CJP) said years of continuous research, trials and experiments have resulted in "a big breakthrough" in the search for a viable alternative feedstock. "After having a number of successful field trials, CJP is happy to announce the much-awaited commercial release of Couple Oil Crop Cultivation technology," the organization said.

CJP is dedicated to the development of oilseed-bearing trees, nonfood vegetable oil plantation and technologies "in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, bring greater control and security of fuel supply and reduce dangerous climate changing emissions, including carbon dioxide." With an effort to "grow beyond oil," CJP has identified, developed and cultivated as many as 12 oilseed-bearing trees and nonfood oil crops in addition to jatropha. "With years of continuing research, experiments and trials, we have provided an adage to find and develop second-generation biodiesel feedstock with low-cost input technology," CJP said.

R.R. Sharma, plant science director for CJP, said jatropha plantations occupy about 50 percent of the planted land, and the rest of the acreage under development will be utilized in a sustainable manner in conjunction with experiments involving various intercropping options, patterns and agro-technologies. "We have been in search of such an intercrop for Jatropha, which should be oil-bearing like jatropha itself without competing with it for food and water, and should be capable of fulfilling jatropha fertilizer requirements while still maintaining soil fertility," he said.

Emergence of the combination crop system may change the entire scenario of the biodiesel industry and shall provide much relief to it, which is desperately in need of viable, sustainable, nonfood feedstocks. "Now we can ensure an oil yield [between 1200 and 1350] gallons per hectare," Sharma said. "The same acreage of land [soon] may provide double the output."

-Nicholas Zeman
 
 
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