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Field to fuel: A biobased economy for a post-petroleum industrial society

Jan Koninckx

Jan Koninckx, Global Business Director for Biofuels at DuPont Industrial Biosciences, discusses the company's pioneering work in the development of biorefineries and the production of fuel fit for the 21st century.

Most people don’t realise how deeply fossil resources like crude oil and natural gas dominate our lives. Not only are vehicles the world over powered with fossil fuels, fossil resources are the raw materials that serve as building blocks for the vast majority of the industrial and consumer products we use every day. Everything from plastic packaging, paints and perfumes to chemicals, cleaners and carpeting –– all begin with petroleum. Roughly 8 per cent of the world’s oil goes to making plastic each year. But in a world sprinting past the seven billion mark in population and with CO2 steadily accumulating in the atmosphere, this fossil-based system can’t sustainably continue, let alone grow.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to. Increasingly, the visionaries who are working towards a ‘post-petroleum society’ are turning to agriculture for answers. Reimagining a world that can feed, fuel and energise itself with resources we either repurpose or grow intentionally. Science is unlocking the answers.

This revolution is rooted in biotechnology. Biology is replacing geology as we seek out new ways to galvanise our global economies. Agriculture holds the key when it comes to sustainable raw materials. And bioprocesses are starting to replace traditional chemical synthesis in industrial processes.

At DuPont, we’re already using biotechnology to convert renewable raw materials derived from plants into the food, energy and products that society need. In October, we will swing open the doors of a brand new type of refinery – a biorefinery – that uses plant waste as its raw material. From this annually renewable raw material, we will produce 30 million gallons per year of clean, cellulosic biofuel.

And here’s what’s truly astounding – we do all this with an over 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Think about that for a second. This is a standard no other fuel can meet. It is a fuel fit for the 21st century – a responsible solution to answer the question of how we energise our growing planet. And it puts us firmly on the starting block to begin to deliver advanced materials for our man-made environment that rely less and less on petroleum inputs. Let me tell you a bit about how we got here.

The 'Field to Fuel' approach

One of the largest challenges we faced was building an entirely new supply chain for plant-based raw materials. We are all familiar with the tankers, rail cars, trucks and pipelines that move petroleum around the world, but with the exception of the forestry industry, no infrastructure even close to this was in existence for renewable raw materials like plant waste. So we had to invent it.

Our projections call for about one bail per minute to be fed into the biorefinery – and at half a ton each, this is no small feat. This is commercial-scale industrial production. To get it right, we worked hard with local Iowa farmers, Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture to establish sustainable harvesting practices. This supply chain needs to be sustainable in every sense of the word, so farmers were satisfied with the long-term quality of their soil and the management of their fields after stover harvest, and we in turn get a reliable product, year after year. Sustainability in agriculture is a built-in business imperative in renewables.

In addition to the feedstock supply, we faced a large technical challenge in the conversion of this new raw material. First, we had to unlock the sugars trapped in cellulose and hemicellulose, basic building blocks of plants, and then biochemically convert them into advanced liquid fuel. And we had to do it all with the economics capable of competing with fossil fuels.

This is where the power of biotechnology comes in. State-of-the-art, high-tech enzymes get us there. These enzymes break down the chemical bonds in lignocellulosic material to produce sugars that can then be fermented to produce ethanol or processed to produce bioplastics or other high-value chemicals. What is so remarkable is that these powerful enzymes do it in a matter of hours, a process that takes Mother Nature usually months or even years. Having experts in both Agronomy and Biotechnology makes this possible. We call it a ‘field to fuel’ approach, and it allows us to innovate across the entire process.

China and beyond

We are also envisioning how this new breed of fuels will impact economies around the world. A perfect example is China. Nowhere is the squeeze on resources being felt more acutely than in China – where the burgeoning middle class is hungry for cost-effective and energy-efficient solutions. Earlier this year, we announced an agreement to bring our cellulosic refining technology to China with our partner NTL. China is the perfect place for this growth, and DuPont’s deal with NTL has rocked the industry as the world’s 2nd largest economy – and the government that has provided them with regulatory stability – has displayed a strong commitment to move beyond traditional sources of fuel. China’s liquid biofuel market – which is expected to exceed 1.7 billion gallons per year by 2020 – is quickly expanding, and is proving fertile ground for blossoming cellulosic ethanol technology.

Biorefineries have a much larger positive impact on rural economies than almost any other type of business. This is because biorefineries buy what is grown locally and employ local people to convert it to valuable product. This combination assures that most of the value of the products leaving the biorefinery benefits the surrounding area, unlike other businesses like the direct sale of crops in a market far away or the conversion of a raw material that is brought in from far away. This sets in motion a waterfall of benefits: farmers can afford to invest in equipment and competency and land becomes more valuable.

As scientists, we’ve worked hard to get to this point. And the clean renewable fuel we produce today – from what was formerly waste streams – gives us a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. But we are always looking to the horizon. What gets us extremely excited as a next step, are the possibilities beyond fuel. The products we mentioned at the outset: packaging, consumer goods, bioplastics. We are learning that biobased processes can deliver unique functionality and benefits that cannot be achieved by petroleum-based manufacturing.

When petroleum displaced coal as the primary raw material for fuel and synthetic materials, it did not do so because we lacked coal. It did so because we could make products with new properties and attributes that were desired or needed by the marketplace. The same now holds true for a new generation of bioplastics. Biobased processes can deliver materials that are difficult to make petrochemically, and offer properties that will delight consumers. Carpet made with fiber from Sorona™ polymer, for instance, is stain resistant and soft to the touch beyond what petrochemical carpets made from polyester or nylon can offer. This has huge benefits for society and the environment.

The world is waking up to the fact that you can only use oil once. And the environmental impacts are felt for generations to follow. There is a better way.

Companies like DuPont are proud to do our part to move this industry forward and help us all reimagine how we feed, fuel and deliver advanced products for our growing planet. The Biobased Economy – a post-petroleum industrial society – has begun.


Jan Koninckx is ‎Global Business Director for Biofuels at DuPont Industrial Biosciences



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30 September 2015
Excellent Bioenergy is the future energy option especially for developing countries since most of them have huge waste lands.
Biofuel/Biogaspower/Biochar from Agave and Opuntia

There are vast areas of waste lands in India. Why not we develop Agro Industries in rural areas to utilise local resources and resourcefulness which provide employment.
There is no point in simply planting trees and forgetting. I have had been suggesting trees which will act as Carbon Sink and can be put to multiple uses. Agave,Aloe vera and Opuntia are CAM plants whch are of care-free growth and regenerative.
I started Campaign to plant Aloe Vera and Opuntia in houses on World Environment Day(June 5).
In the vast areas of waste lands these plants can be grown on a massive scale for biofuel/biogaspower/biochar.
Here is an Action Plan:
Developing countries tend to have limited human and financial resources, so bioenergy development should first explore opportunities based on already available biomass and proven technology, rather than investing in dedicated fuel crops and the development of new technologies. Synergies between the forest industry and energy generation provide opportunities for both sectors. Integrating energy generation into forest industrial operations is a competitive way of reducing risks, increasing profitability and improving forest management. It also strengthens energy security and contributes to climate change mitigation. This should be a priority for exploration by developing countries investing in bioenergy.
Biomass – the fourth largest energy source after coal, oil and natural gas - is the largest and most important renewable energy option at present and can be used to produce different forms of energy. As a result, it is, together with the other renewable energy options, capable of providing all the energy services required in a modern society, both locally and in most parts of the world. Renewability and versatility are, among many other aspects, important advantages of biomass as an energy source. Moreover, compared to other renewables, biomass resources are common and widespread across the globe. The sustainability potential of global biomass for energy is widely recognized. For example, the annual global primary production of biomass is equivalent to the 4,500 EJ1 of solar energy captured each year. About 5% of this energy, or 225 EJ, should cover almost 50% of the world’s total primary energy demand at present. These 225 EJ are in line with other estimates which assume a sustainable annual bioenergy market of 270 EJ. However, the 50 EJ biomass contributed to global primary energy demand of 470 EJ in 2007, mainly in the form of traditional non-commercial biomass, is only 10% of the global primary energy demand. The potential for energy from biomass depends in part on land availability. Currently, the amount of land devoted to growing energy crops for biomass fuels is only 0.19% of the world’s total land area and only 0.5-1.7% of global agricultural land. Although the large potential of algae as a resource of biomass for energy is not taken into consideration in this report, there are results that demonstrate that algae can, in principle, be used as a renewable energy source. From all of these perspectives, the evidence gathered by the report leads to a simple conclusion: Biomass potential for energy production is promising. In most cases, shifting the energy mix from fossil fuels to renewables can now be done using existing technology. Investors in many cases have a reasonably short pay-back because of good availability of lowcost biomass fuels. The latter is of course dependant on local incentives, however. Overall, the future of bioenergy is also to a large extent determined by policy. Thus, an annual bioenergy supply covering global energy demand in 2050, superseding 1,000 EJ, should be possible with sufficient political support(Global Potential of Sustainable Biomass for Energy Svetlana Ladanai Johan Vinterbäck SLU, Institutionen för energi och teknik Report 013 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences ISSN 1654-9406 Department of Energy and Technology Uppsala 2009).
Climate Change Mitigation…/mi…/Bioenergy/tabid/29345/Default.aspx
“In a world facing growing energy demand, high oil prices and an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, bioenergy is an essential energy option for a range of applications as part of a mix that includes energy efficiency, renewable energy, and changed patterns of production and consumption.
Since the discovery of fire, bioenergy - the use of organic materials to provide heating, lighting and motive power - has been one of the most dominant sources of energy worldwide. Today, all forms of biomass together provide about 14% of the world primary energy supplies, and represent about 80% of the global renewable energy supply. In some developing countries the share of biomass is as high as 90% of energy supply, with the use of traditional bioenergy for cooking and heating prevailing. There is increasing interest in developing and developed countries in modern bioenergy or biofuels.
This is due to the many environmental, social and economic benefits linked to bioenergy at times when carbon constraints and high crude oil prices limit further growth in the use of fossil fuels.
At the same time, we have seen recent debate questioning that these benefits will materialize and adding a whole range of concerns to the list of things to be examined.
No energy source is without drawbacks - it is urgent to ensure that we do not add new environmental and social problems while trying to solve old ones. A comprehensive set of policies needs to be put in place to assure that bioenergy is produced in manners that ensure sustainability, ie. through an internationally agreed system that guarantees that bioenergy commodities are of a known pedigree and are produced sustainably, without destroying the sector's prospects.
Achieving this delicate balance is a challenge and more work is needed to understand the interrelations and how a policy mix balancing the different interests, i.e. energy, agriculture, environment, transport, trade, could look.
'Bioenergy yes or no' is not the question, but rather 'to what extent bioenergy will be part of the energy mix' and 'how will the pathways for sustainable bioenergy look like'.
To address these issues, UNEPs bioenergy programme is structured around the following priority areas:
• Sustainable Development impacts and synergies
• Resource Assessment
• Market creation and policy interventions
• Business development and finance” .
“Outlook, Biofuels Roadmap 2050 and Technology Perspectives 2050, have now looked at the future from a different angle – as in Germany and the EU, it asked what future global development of transport would be assuming that the 2°C climate goal is met (IEA 2011a-b + 2012a). The results of these studies give quite a consistent picture: The demand for biofuels could increase tenfold by 2050 versus 2010. 1st generation biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol) would increasingly be replaced by 2nd generation biofuels from 2030 onwards. The main growth area for biofuels from that time onwards would be in commercial vehicles, shipping and air transport; in parallel to that, the use of electric vehicles would increase rapidly, and would partially replace biofuels in passenger cars. The global biofuels demand up to 2050 determined by the IEA at some 30 EJ would utilise between 25% and 50% of the globally available sustainable bioenergy potential. Thus bioenergy would also be available for power and heating, and could replace fossil fuels there.
BIOFUELS BOOM … Let us start with a brief retrospect. In the early 2000s there was broad consensus in Germany across all political parties on rapid expansion of the use of biofuels; automotive manufacturers, representatives of agriculture, media, the petroleum industry, politicians and many groups in civil society were advocating biofuels – not only in Germany. No wonder, because biofuels had a green image. They were propagated as a key element in sustainable mobility and climate change mitigation. Biofuels were to create a broader base in energy sources for transport, especially road transport. Biofuels were also to give new opportunities for jobs, income and development for farmers in industrial and developing countries – particularly important at a time when world trade was being liberalised and subsidies for agriculture and exports removed. The result was strong support worldwide for the application and use of biofuels, led by industrial countries with large vehicle fleets and fuel markets – such as the USA, the EU and Germany. Global production of biofuels was multiplied several times in just a few years, even if starting from a low baseline. The most significant expansion was for biofuels in Germany, which is by far Europe’s largest fuel market. Compared with an EU market share for biofuels of only 1% in 2005, the German biofuel share was already close to 4%. In 2007 it rose to as much as 7.4%, which was the high point in biofuels development so far. In 2007 Germany set itself a target of 17% biofuels by 2020; in 2008 the target was corrected just slightly to between 12 and 15% – which was still double the 2007 figure (Biofuels – what role in the future energy mix? Facts, trends and perspectives,…/shell-biofuels-facts-trends-p…)
Agave is a versatile plant well suited for millions of hectares of wastelands in India. Agave-derived Renewable Fuels, Products and Chemicals Biofuels Ethanol(1st and 2nd generations),Biobutanol,biomethanol,biojet fiel,green gasoline,biooil,biocrude,biodiesel,biocoal,biochar,H2,syngas,biogas,torrefied pellets and briquettes, drop-in fuels,pyrolysis oil,and biochar. Bioproducts Agave syrup(kosher),Powder inulin,healthy sweetners,far substitute(ice cream),bioplastics,cellulose,paper,acids,CO,CO2,biopolymers,pressed boards,geotextiles,fibres,phenols,adhesives,wax,antifreeze,film(food wrap),fertilisers,insulating foam and panes,gel,pectin,non-wooven material9disposable diapers),mouldings,concrete additive,food additives,composite materials,esters,substitute for asbestos, in fiberglass,hydrocarbons,petrochemical precursors, activated coal,secondary metabolites,detergent,glycols,furfurans,resins,polyurethanes,epoxy,aromatics,olefins,paints and lubricants. Green electricity Pellets and briquettes,syn-gas,biooil,biocoal,biogas,biochar,H2 cells,ammonia,and pyrolysis oil. Co2 Sequestering in the soil Biochar. Agave: Competitive Advantages 1. Uses marginal dry-land (41% of the Earth’s surface). 2. Most Efficient use of soil, water and light. 3. Massive production. Year-round harvesting. 4. Very high yields. Very low inputs. 5. Lowest cost of production among energy crops. 6. Not a commodity, so prices are not volatile. 7. Very versatile: biofuels, bioproducts, chemicals. 8. 100 M tonnes established in the 5 continents 9. Enhanced varieties are ready. Mexico is pioneer in utilising every part of Agave for commercial exploitation. Will India follow? Ours is an agrarian economy. Let us utilise our resources fully so that there will be more rural employment and climate change abatement by providing CAM plants. Thanks to the wonders of nature,we have Care-free growth,regenerative plants like Agave and Opuntia which can be grown in these waste lands for Biofuel and Biogas for Power generation. Mexico is leader in this. Agave(Americana),Sisal Agave is a multiple use plant which has 10% fermentable sugars and rich in cellulose. The fibre is used in rope making and also for weaving clothes in Philippines under the trade name DIP-DRY. In Brazil a paper factory runs on sisal as input. A Steroid HECOGENIN is extracted from this plant leaves. Since on putrification,it produces methane gas, it can be cut and used as input in biogas plants. Also in Kenya and Lesotho dried pieces of Agave are mixed with concrete since it has fibres which act as binding. Biofuel can be produced from Agave. Oxford University study on agave-to-ethanol: sustainability of large-scale biofuel production has recently been called into question in view of mounting concerns over the associated impact on land and water resources. As the most predominant biofuel today, ethanol produced from food crops such as corn in the US has been frequently criticised. Ethanol derived from cellulosic feedstocks is likely to overcome some of these drawbacks, but the production technology is yet to be commercialised. Sugarcane ethanol is the most efficient option in the short term, but its success in Brazil is difficult to replicate elsewhere. Agaves are attracting attention as potential ethanol feedstocks because of their many favourable characteristics such as high productivities and sugar content and their ability to grow in naturally water-limited environments. Here, we present the first life cycle energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis for agave-derived ethanol. The results suggest that ethanol derived from agave is likely to be superior, or at least comparable, to that from corn, switchgrass and sugarcane in terms of energy and GHG balances, as well as in ethanol output and net GHG offset per unit land area. Our analysis highlights the promising opportunities for bioenergy production from agaves in arid or semi-arid regions with minimum pressure on food production and water resources. [...] the emissions of agave-derived fuel are estimated to stand at around 35g of CO2 per megajoule from field-to-wheel, compared to the 85g/MJ emitted when making corn ethanol.’ Dr Tan and his colleagues found this energy balance is five units to one. This compares favourably to the highly efficient sugarcane, and to the less efficient corn as a source of biofuel. It also compares favourably to sugarcane-derived ethanol for its ability to offset greenhouse gas emissions, which we calculated at 7.5 tons of CO2e per hectare per year “ taking into account the crop’s complete life cycle The main drawback for wider application of Biofuels is input. There was a big movement for biofuel from Jatropha in India but in reality not much has been achieved. Agave(Americana),Sisal Agave is a multiple use plant which has 10% fermentable sugars and rich in cellulose. The fibre is used in rope making and also for weaving clothes in Philippines under the trade name DIP-DRY. In Brazil a paper factory runs on sisal as input. A Steroid HECOGENIN is extracted from this plant leaves. Since on putrification,it produces methane gas, it can be cut and used as input in biogas plants. Also in Kenya and Lesotho dried pieces of Agave are mixed with concrete since it has fibres which act as binding. Here is an excellent analysis on Agave as a biofuel: Agave shows potential as biofuel feedstock, Checkbiotech, By Anna Austin, February 11, 2010: “Mounting interest in agave as a biofuel feedstock could jump-start the Mexican biofuels industry, according to agave expert Arturo Valez Jimenez. Agave thrives in Mexico and is traditionally used to produce liquors such as tequila. It has a rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each of which usually end in a sharp point with a spiny margin. Commonly mistaken for cacti, the agave plant is actually closely related to the lily and amaryllis families. The plants use water and soil more efficiently than any other plant or tree in the world, Arturo said. “This is a scientific fact they don’t require watering or fertilizing and they can absorb carbon dioxide during the night” he said. The plants annually produce up to 500 metric tons of biomass per hectare, he added. Agave fibers contain 65 percent to 78 percent cellulose, according to Jimenez. With new technology, it is possible to breakdown over 90 percent of the cellulose and hemicellulose structures, which will increase ethanol and other liquid biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass drastically,he said. “Mascoma is assessing such technology”. Another plant of great use is OPUNTIA for biogas production. The cultivation of nopal((OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA), a type of cactus, is one of the most important in Mexico. According to Rodrigo Morales, Chilean engineer, Wayland biomass, installed on Mexican soil, allows you to generate inexhaustible clean energy. Through the production of biogas, it can serve as a raw material more efficiently, by example and by comparison with jatropha. Wayland Morales, head of Elqui Global Energy argues that “an acre of cactus produces 43 200 m3 of biogas or the equivalent in energy terms to 25,000 liters of diesel.†With the same land planted with jatropha, he says, it will produce 3,000 liters of biodiesel. Another of the peculiarities of the nopal is biogas which is the same molecule of natural gas, but its production does not require machines or devices of high complexity. Also, unlike natural gas, contains primarily methane (75%), carbon dioxide (24%) and other minor gases (1%), “so it has advantages from the technical point of view since it has the same capacity heat but is cleaner”, he says, and as sum datum its calorific value is 7,000 kcal/m3.
I had been advocating Biofuel from Agave and Opuntia besides Biogas for power production. Unfortunately in India, we are in most cases imitators but not innovators. First Box Type solar cooker was from India. But often we adopt western designs. Unless west recognizes, we don’t recognize. I submitted a research project on Biofuel from Agave and Biogas from Opuntia to Government of India. If any industrial houses/organisations are interested in promoting this in India I have collaboration with leaders in the field from Mexico,UK.US and Australia. Here is more important information: Agave\'s lower lignin content (down to 2.4%) and higher cellulose content (62%) makes it ideal for production of Biofuel. Agave can be intercropped with Opuntia(Prickly Pear) which will be used to generate biogas for renewable electricity generation. Biogas power generators from KW size to MW size are commercially available from Germany,China,Vietnam etc. The cost of production per Kwh with Opuntia can be as low as US$ 3.00 per million BTU. On an annual basis,one hectare of agave can yield 3 times the ethanol one hectare of sugarcane in Brazil. Agave to Ethanol's CO2 e emissions are lower than sugarcane and corn. Water - footprint -- agave does not have any. Agave uses water,light and soil most efficiently amongst plants/trees on earth. Agave is packed with sugars, on an annual basis one hectare of agave yields upto 3 thousand gallons of ethanol(from its sap/juice) and 4000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol. No other plant in the World has such potential. I have a plan: We have SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES (SEZ). Just like that we can start YOUTH ECONOMIC ZONES (YEZ). Wastelands can be given to youth on a lease basis(about 10 acres per youth) and 1o such youth can form a co-operative. They can cultivate fast growing multiple use plants like Agave and Opuntia. Power generation plants can be set up at local level. This way there will be decentralised power. This fits in Mahatma Gandhiji\'s Concept of AGRO INDUSTRIES utilising local resources and resourcefulness. Youth can be given short term training in Agricultural operations. This way we can provide employment to Youth besides bringing waste and vacant land under cultivation. What is more, large plantations of Agave and Opuntia lead to climate Stability as both are CAM plants. Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions. In a plant using full CAM, the stomata in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored as the four-carbon acid malate, and then used during photosynthesis during the day. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around the enzyme RuBisCO, increasing photosynthetic efficiency. Developing countries like ours which have millions of hectares of waste lands can transform rural economy by going in for Agave and Opuntia plantations on a massive scale. As one Exonomist put it, IT IS NOT THE LACK OF RESOURCES BUT RESOURCEFULNESS THAT EXPLAINS WHY PEOPLE PERISH IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY.
Situation of Jatropha in India. It is almost a failure. Here is an interesting analysis on Jatropha in India. “The Indian experience The National, a newspaper published in Abu Dhabi in its May 11, 2009 issue, published an article titled; “Jatropha seeds yield little hope for India’s oil dream”. The article referred to a project that was embarked upon by Professor R. R. Shah in 2005, when he sent a team to Navsari Agricultural University’s most parched and desolate strip of land, a farm in the Vyasa district of India’s northern state of Gujarat. The team was instructed to set up a model farm for jatropha, the hardy shrub with oil-rich seeds that were then emerging as one of the most promising alternatives to crude oil. At the time, jatropha’s promise seemed boundless. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the president of the University, even used his presidential address that year to extol the virtues of jatropha. “Jatropha can survive in the most arid wastelandsâ”, the story went. And so vast barren swathes of India could be put to productive use. It is inedible so it would not cause a backlash by competing with food crops, it said. The government, according to the publication announced a scheme to plant 13 million hectares, enough to generate nearly 500,000 barrels of jatropha oil per day. But as Prof Shah project in Vyasa nears its end this month, the dean of agribusiness at Navsari is sceptical.’There is no yield’ he says. The literature said that with dry land, after four years growth, you can get a yield of 1kg per plant. For us, it is hardly 200g per plant. The consensus of the team of experts after evaluating India’s jatropa projects from 22 agribusiness colleges across the country was that, indeed, jatropha would grow on wasteland, but would give no appreciable yield. This is not a wasteland crop. It needs fertiliser, water and good management. Yes, it grows on wasteland, but it doesn’t give you any yield,†the publication quotes Dr Suman Jha a researcher on Prof. Shah’s team as saying. If this observation is anything to go by, then the persistent argument that jatropha could grow on unproductive agriculture land should be looked at again. This argument also challenges the assertion that investors are not a threat to smallholder farmers,whose productive agriculture land stands to be annexed by powerful multinationals for the cultivation of biofuel crops. Non of the projects cited in The National story, including D1 Oils, a London-listed biofuels company, which has planted about 257,000 hectares of jatropha, mainly in India was successful. The company moved far too early. The report indicated that D1 is also having some nasty surprises on yield. It said in 2006 that it aimed to produce 2.7 tonnes of oil per hectare from areas planted with its new E1 variety, and 1.7 tonnes of oil from normal seed. That is equivalent to about 8 tonnes and 5 tonnes of seed per hectare respectively, or 3.5kg and 2kg a plant. According to the report, Pradip Bhar, who runs the company’s D1 Williamson Magor Bio Fuel joint venture in India north east, admits he has yet to achieve a fraction of that. Hitting 500g is the challenge,he says. Mortality is quite high. But if we can reach 500g in two years time, after that the bush will continue to grow. Our expectation is that after the fourth year we will hit 1kg. The 1.5kg mark we haven’t touched as yet.Those are the results from the fertile state of Assam, According to the report. The yields in other, dryer states such as Jharkand and Orissa, he says, are much worse. Mr Bhar intends to hold the area under cultivation steady at about 132,000 hectares this year. As his plantations account for more than half of D1 Oils Jatropha crop, the company’s goal of planting 1 million hectares by 2011 looks like a tough one. He is concentrating instead on ensuring his small contract farmers continue tending it for the two or three years needed before it becomes profitable. This challenge is one of the reasons why Prof Shah doubts the 500,000 hectares of jatropha the Indian government estimates has been planted so far. Only last month, he unsettled an annual meeting of the universities researching jatropha and India’s National Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Development Board by reporting that only 5,000 hectares was actually under plantation in Gujarat, half the official estimate, the report added. The Indian experience can provide sufficient evidence for a careful, and thorough, cost-benefit analysis of Ghana’s jatropha dream, before the bubble most probably bursts. From May 27 to 28, an international conference on jatropha in Ghana would be considering the benefits of the crop to the global economy. Hopefully, the conference would not hype the benefits of jatropha and neglect the possible pitfalls. An objective consideration of all the possibilities, including that of possible failure, as the Indian experience has shown so as to minimize any collateral damage in the long term is necessary for the move forward. The companies investing in jatropha and other non-food crops for the production of biofuels including the ones from India, have lots of lessons to learn from India’s example, so as not to repeat the mistake. - See more at:…/update-any-lessons-for…/… On the other hand I had been advocating cultivating care-free growth plants like Agave and Opuntia in Waste lands. Both are CAM Plants. Biofuel and Biogas and subsequent power can be generated from both of these plants. Both are CAM Plants.
There is no point in saying that Jatropha is being cultivated in India since long. Nobody denies this. My criticism is that Jatropha needs watering and a seasonal crop. It takes minimum 5 years to yield the seeds. Because of Hype many people grabbed thousands of acres of wastelands for lease. How many of them are actually growing Jatropha is a million Dollar question. People want to grow in Millions of hectares of Jatropha crop in Ghana,Medagaskar,Tanzania,Kenya etc. But how much area is covered by Jatropha? I have First hand information of Jatropha in Madagascar. In India (AP),a Jatropha biodiesel extraction plant was set up but was not a success as there was no regular supply of Jatropha seeds. Elsewhere there is criticism on Jatropha as it also requires watering like normal plants though in lesser quantity: As of 2011 skepticism about the \"miracle\" properties of Jatropha has been voiced. For example: \"The idea that jatropha can be grown on marginal land is a red herring\", according to Harry Stourton, business development director of UK-based Sun Biofuels, which cultivates Jatropha in Mozambique and Tanzania. \"It does grow on marginal land, but if you use marginal land you\'ll get marginal yields,\" he said. An August 2010 article warned about the actual utility and potential dangers of reliance on Jatropha in Kenya. Major concerns included its invasiveness, which could disrupt local biodiversity, as well as damage to water catchment areas. Jatropha curcas is lauded as being sustainable, and that its production would not compete with food production, but the jatropha plant needs water like every other crop to grow. This could create competition for water between the jatropha and other edible food crops. In fact, jatropha requires five times more water per unit of energy than sugarcane and corn. 1. Reuters: Biofuel jatropha falls from wonder-crop pedestal, 21-1-2011 2. Friends of the Earth Europe: Biofuel \'wonder-crop\' jatropha failing to deliver, 21-01-2011 3. \"Biodiesel wonder plant could spell doom for Kenya\". Retrieved 2011-03-22. 4. Friends of the Earth kicks against Jatropha production in Africa, Ghana Business News, Friday, May 29, 2009, 5. Phil McKenna (June 9, 2009). \"All Washed Up for Jatropha? The draught-resistant \"dream\" biofuel is also a water hog\".Technology Review. Retrieved 2011-10-11. In Summary I am not against growing Jatropha but the cost benefit analysis need to be carried out with respect to other options like Agave and Opuntia as far as growing in waste lands is concerned.Both Agave and Opuntia are regenerative plants. As such input is available round the year if planted in different seasons.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

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