Asians look to biodiesel plantations

THE Indian Government looks likely to introduce a comprehensive biodiesel policy based around the jatropha plant, and the Philippines has inaugurated a program to rehabilitate land degraded by mining by planting jatropha as biodiesel feedstock.

With over 70% of its crude oil needs coming from imports, the introduction of a 20% biodiesel blend is seen as a step towards Indian energy security.

India’s Planning Commission has submitted a report to the Ministry of Rural Development recommending jatropha as the most suitable plant stock for producing biodiesel thanks to its high yield, swift gestation period and ability to grow in a variety of environments.

“We are planning to produce 13 million tonnes of alternate fuel every year. However, this will require 11 million hectares of land and create 11 million jobs,” said Planning Commission advisor R Mandal.

“The land to be cultivated has already been identified and private oil companies are expected to enter into buyback arrangements with farmers.”

With vast tracts of land able to accommodate the farming of biodiesel stock plants, it is predicted that an aggressive biodiesel production program could net over $US2 billion in revenues for India in the next few years.

“Biodiesel processing costs in India are almost one-third of that in European countries and the US,” said director of biodiesel research firm Nandan Biomatrix C S Jadhav.

“Extracting bio-diesel in Europe costs around 0.799 euro while it costs between Rs15 and Rs17 in India.”

Meanwhile Philippines president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has inaugurated a program to rehabilitate land degraded by mining by planting biodiesel feedstock plants.

The president demonstrated her government’s commitment to environmentally friendly fuels by planting the first seedling at the site in Toledo in Cebu province. The project is a joint venture between biodiesel producer D1 Oils Asia Pacific and Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development, a local mining and resources company.

An initial five to seven hectare demonstration farm will be created, with the ultimate aim of the project to bioremediate the site to provide a 7000ha jatropha plantation producing large quantities of biofuel, according to D1 Oils chief executive officer Phillip Wood.

“We see the mining industry as a key partner for D1 Oils,” Wood said.

“The need to restore degraded land around mines provides us with a great opportunity to demonstrate the potential of jatropha to rehabilitate land while producing a source of green energy for local communities.

“The project will provide additional income and employment opportunities for the rural poor, especially women, [and] serve as a model for other mining remediation efforts throughout the world.”