RENEWABLE FUELS - BioDiesel

Unripened Jatropha fruit. Jatropha nursery. Jatropha tree fencing. Intercropping with Jatropha trees.

A fuel is a substance that releases usable energy. Thus fuels store energy that can be released when needed. Renewable relates to a characteristic that allows a resource to be replaceable by new growth. Thus, renewable fuels is a substance that releases usable energy and this energy can be replaced by new growth which replenishes the energy store.

Renewable fuels are a subset of Renewable Energy, Renewable Energy relates to the wider spectrum of energy which once used up is replenished naturally. It includes wind energy, tidal energy, hydel energy etc. In these cases the energy from the energy carrier is converted to electricity which is used up immediately. It also includes fuels which are generally self generating biomass which can convert solar energy and store such energy in the form of biomass. When we release such energy by using up the biomass, we can replenish such biomass by growing it again, thus reconverting solar energy into biomass. Often such biomass energy resources are converted into other fuels which are in a more usable form and which can be stored, transported, distributed, and burnt for energy with greater efficiency and standardisation.

1. What is Biodiesel?
It is a fuel composed of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. It contains no petroleum but can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel works with any diesel engine with few or no modifications to the engine or the fuel system.


2. What are the advantages over petroleum diesel?
Use of Biodiesel results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to petroleum diesel. In addition exhaust emissions of sulphur oxides and sulphates are essentially eliminated. Life cycle analysis shows that for every unit of fossil energy it takes to make biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy is gained. It thus has the highest energy balance of any transportation fuel. It is a renewable energy source and does not deplete the world's resources. Biodiesel has a higher cetane number than most petroleum diesel. This makes it burn better with lesser residue thus enhancing engine life. Biodiesel shows similar fuel consumption, horsepower, torque and haulage rates as petroleum diesel.

3. Why biodiesel makes sense as an alternate fuel source?
Up to now no alternate fuel source has been developed commercially other than biodiesel. One of the main problems is the huge investment required to change the design of engines and infrastructure needs from the existing one. In most cases engine design, fuel delivery design, fuel storage design, fuel delivery design etc have to be changed. In the case of biodiesel, investments in such changes are minimal and the same infrastructure can be used. It thus makes changing over economic and easy. This is the single most important reason for the acceptability of biodiesel as a fuel worldwide. Governments are giving their full backing to this fuel because it meets their objectives of reduction of emissions and particulate matter from renewable sources.

4. Biodiesel worldwide
Biodiesel use worldwide has grown .It started in a very small way in 1992. However it made significant progress from 1999 and for the last 3 years has grown by leaps and bounds as more production capacity was added and Governments gave incentives for its production and use. Europe had a capacity of 6,743,333 Kilo Litres of biodiesel as at 1st July 2006 and produced and consumed 3,537,778 Kilo litres in 2005. Year to year percentage increase in Capacity in Europe has increased by 65% in 2005 and 90% in 2006. The US consumed around 283,875 Kilo litres in 2005. US production capacity as at 1st May 2006 was 1,495,075 Kilo Litres and plants under construction is expected to add further production capacity of 2,701,354 Kilo Litres by 2007. It is being used across the world and more and more countries are giving incentives for its production and use. Even then, it may be considered a new industry worldwide as true impetus in the industry really took place for the last 5 years. Various technologies are being used for production.

5. Biodiesel in India
India has got into the game 3 years late. As of today there are no large-scale plants operating in India. (Large scale can be defined as producing more than 10kl of biodiesel a day.) The Central Government is in the process of laying down the policy for biodiesel. It is expected that the Policy will be announced by the end of the year. The plant being encouraged by the Government is Jatropha Curcas because it is a very sturdy plant and also grows on arid and wasteland and in extremes of agro climatic conditions, it can generate massive employment in the rural and agricultural sector, it is nonedible and toxic, cattle and animals do not eat it, it has high oil yield and is comparatively cheap to grow. Seeing the potential many states have taken the lead in growing this plant. Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu are the frontrunners. Uttaranchal, Chattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are fast catching up. The Indian Railways and the public sector oil companies have also got into the act over the last 3 years. In the private sector, Reliance Petroleum has declared its intention to get into this area this year. D1 Oils plc of UK is also building capacity in South India. The tax and fiscal incentive structure has not yet been put in place by the Central Government. At the moment, there are no Taxes on Biodiesel in the form of Excise Duty or VAT. However it is expected that the Government will define the incentive structure with the announcement of the Policy on Biodiesel to be announced soon. The Ministry of Petroleum has announced its policy of purchase of biodiesel in October 2005. Viewing the enormous socio-economic and environmental benefits accruing to this Industry, it is expected that the Government will have no hesitation in giving liberal tax and fiscal incentives for the large-scale development of this industry.

6. What are the basic numbers?
a.
2500 Jatropha plants per hectare
b. Each plant will give, on a reasonable estimate, 2kgs of usable seed per year on maturity.
c. Thus for 1 hectare seeds available will be 5000 kgs/year
d. Oil recovery can be taken conservatively at 30%
e. Thus from 1 Hectare we will recover 1500 kgs or 1667 litres of jatropha oil and 3500 kgs of oil cake which can be sold as fertilizer.
f. From 1 litre of Jatropha oil we can recover 95% biodiesel
g. Thus from 1 hectare or 3333 litres of oil we will produce 1583 litres of biodiesel and 220 kgs of crude glycerine.
h. Thus from a 2500 hectare command area of jatropha plantation we can make 3958 kilo litres of biodiesel, 550 MT of crude glycerine and 8750 Mt of oil cake.
i. At 303 days working this needs a plant capacity of 14kl/day at 100%.
j. Thus we need to put up a plant of 16 kl/day capacity for 2500 hectares of jatropha plantation.
k. Entrepreneurs can take up the project in any of the three parts --- plantation, oil extraction or biodiesel factory.

© 2008- Subir Das :: Best viewed at 800 x 600 resolution :: Site design: Samit Roychoudhury