Brookhaven studying jatropha oil combustion properties

By | May 19, 2010
Brookhaven National Laboratory is beginning work on evaluating the combustion properties of jatropha oil. The Upton, N.Y.-based lab selected SG Biofuels to supply seeds and oil from its Latin American jatropha plantations.

C.R. Krishna, Brookhaven's lead biodiesel researcher, told Biodiesel Magazine how Brookhaven came to choose a jatropha oil supplier for this new study.

Krishna said when Brookhaven first decided to test jatropha oil, researchers had difficulty obtaining samples. "I couldn't get one," he said. "If you look on the Web, there are all kinds of companies and people that want to sell you jatropha-some in India, some in Thailand-of course some of them wanted me to wire money to them first," he laughed. "Finally I got word of SG Biofuels, they are an American company, and we started talking."

Brookhaven has studied combustion and emissions properties of biodiesel-blended heating oil for years, and it will now use the same commercial boiler it used for previous studies to test residual fuel oil blended with jatropha oil in varying blends.
"I suggested Bioheat 15 years ago but no one wanted to listen," Krishna said. "If we're looking at biodiesel, we should also be looking at the base oils-it's cheaper."

Residential oilheat furnaces are not set up to burn blends of straight plant oils because the atomizers have trouble with the higher viscosity of such oils, but Krishna said commercial boilers do not have the same issues and can handle the thicker fuel.
Funding for this jatropha study is coming from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Kirk Haney, president and CEO of SG Biofuels, said, "As we continue our scientific and genetic efforts to enhance jatropha across a number of traits, including yield, climate tolerance and improved agronomic inputs, it's important that we continue to benchmark oil quality and performance. This partnership will provide valuable third-party research and analysis as we continue our efforts to develop elite cultivars of jatropha."

Krishna said he has already received an initial sample of jatropha oil at the lab, which was subsequently tested in a small preliminary experiment. He was expecting to receive drum-sized quantities of jatropha oil from SG Biofuels in early May. Krishna said he likely will be testing blends of jatropha oil at 10 and 30 percent, as well as 100 percent if enough jatropha oil remains toward completion of the study.
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