Biodiesel activity strong in India

By | May 25, 2007
Although not an independent producer of biodiesel, India is a growing hotspot for foreign entities looking to establish groundwork in lessening the nation's reliance on imported petroleum in an effort to increase energy security.

Global biodiesel producer D1 Oils plc has been one of the major players in the Indian biodiesel industry. The Middlesbrough, United Kingdom-based firm is currently involved in two joint ventures: one with Williamson Magor, India's largest tea producer; and the other with Mohan Brewery, India's oldest and largest liquor producer. The cooperative mission is aimed at augmenting local jatropha and pongamia plantations for biodiesel production. According to D1 Oils Communications Director Graham Prince, both crops are plentiful and have proven to be cost-effective, especially jatropha relative to labor costs. "India could easily end up being in a position with the land available of satisfying its current diesel demand from jatropha," Prince said. D1 Oils has been active in India since 2004 and currently has about 46,000 hectares of jatropha planted in India, just under one-third of the company's worldwide planting total of 150,000 hectares also located in Africa and Southeast Asia.

India imports nearly 70 percent (about 110 million tons) of its diesel requirements, and that figure is expected to rise above 85 percent. Oil prices reached a record high of $76 per barrel as of May 2.

"[India] will create its own industry, and they'll create it in a way that Brazil has with ethanol around biodiesel," said Steve Douty, D1 Oils executive director for global business development in India. "I think it's one of those things that once it's up and running, it's going to be cemented in place in a place like India probably a lot longer than anywhere else."

Other major players taking a proactive approach to India's biofuel independence include Michigan-based Biodiesel Industries Inc., Reliance Industries Ltd., Godrej Agrovet, Emami Group and Nandan Bioagro, as well as a host of other local Indian and third-party companies.
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