Cross-Country Commodity

Why crude jatropha oil is more than just a biodiesel feedstock
By Bryan Sims | November 17, 2010
Crude jatropha oil (CJO) has a track record as being a good feedstock for biodiesel production, but Australia-based renewable energy and biodiesel producer Mission NewEnergy Ltd. has found markets in which CJO could be used for other applications. In October, MNE sold and shipped 20 metric tons of unrefined crude jatropha oil at approximately $130 per barrel to one of Europe's largest power companies, for energy generation. The shipment, according to James Garton, MNE's head of corporate finance and M&A, represents a 60 percent premium compared to prevailing crude oil prices. "The shipment was a demonstration that there are multiple markets for crude jatropha oil other than biodiesel," he says. "From our perspective, it's a major milestone for us."

The CJO shipment to Europe falls in line with a milestone the company achieved in June when it crushed and shipped 188 metric tons of crude CJO to its operating 100,000 metric ton (30 MMgy) biodiesel facility in Kuantan Port, Malaysia. The company is in the process of commissioning a 250,000 metric-ton-per-year plant adjacent to the Kuantan Port facility. Though it used traditional pressing methods to crush its 1,500 metric tons of seed, MNE plans to introduce solvent extraction methods to increase oil yields.

Even though both plants now use crude palm oil as feedstock, the latest shipment of CJO to the European power provider, according to Garton, doesn't dismiss the company's goals for using CJO as a feedstock for its production plants. "That's not to say that we intend to move away from using CJO [for] our biodiesel production," he says. "The European shipment is a milestone equally measurable to our first crush, or our first jatropha planting."

Since 2007, MNE has planted jatropha seeds on its 180,000 acres of land in India. Based on median estimates, MNE's jatropha operations are expected to yield approximately 1,300 pounds of CJO per acre, which represents more than 20 million barrels of supply over 30 years. With those figures, Garton says, there is more than enough demand for sustainable crude oils such as CJO for use in energy generation in Europe that currently exceeds MNE's expected supply. He adds, "We expect to generate a 300 percent increase compared to what we had this year."
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