Is Jatropha Curcas Biodiesel Losing out to Algae Biodiesel?

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Picture Credit: Benjamin Arseguel

A recent post on Chemically Green “The Truth About Jatropha Curcas” lists the pros and cons for growing Jatropha Curcas. India, which has researched extensively in growing Jatropha, has been investing heavily in Jatropha Curcas for biofuel production for their own automobile transportation. Early reports on Jatropha Curcas stated this bush could be grown on marginal land and little irrigation and this has not proven to be factual. Check out: “Biodiesel Being Made from Tree Nuts”.

Now, India is changing directions for biofuel production and is taking a look at perhaps the real answer for producing biofuels and biodiesel: Growing algae to produce biodiesel. A real biofuel revelation coming from India: Algae biodiesel will out-produce Jatropha Curcas for biodiesel production. Also, when you compare the advantages of growing biodiesel vs. Jatropha, algae has many more positive traits than Jatropha including production yields by 10:1. No intense crop management, no soil preparation, grow in any environment and less labor intense handling of Jatropha for processing of biodiesel.

New Delhi, In the endevour to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions to achieve a clean environment, humble algae appears to be taking a lead over the more-talked-about biodiesel source Jatropha. Experts say that “algae farming in less than 1 per cent of India’s total land can make the country self-sufficient in liquid fuel. Algae yield from one acre of wasteland can be 10 times more than Jatropha and by a conservative estimate over 10,000 litres of oil can be produced from one acre of waste/degraded land”, they add.

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Picture Credit:Biodieselnow.com

Algae as cheapest source of biofuels in view of spiraling energy costs was recently also endorsed by Biocon chairman & managing director Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. “Algae holds great promise. Algae can be the cheapest source of biofuel that is easily produced, which can help in reducing pollution in various industries like chemical, textile, detergents,” she said at a TERI function in the Capital.

“As sustainable alternatives are sought in a bid to enhance energy security as well as reduce carbon emissions, the focus of researchers has shifted to next generation biodiesel — those not made from food crops such as soya or palm. It has been conclusively established that, in terms of per hectare oil yield, algae could be the most efficient source of feedstock for biodiesel industry,” explains Saxena. While Jatropha takes two-three years for commercial yield, algae starts yielding from two-three days and thereafter the algae oil can be harvested everyday. Algae oil can be suitably converted to biodiesel and left over deoiled cake serves as an excellent source of high value protein to supplement the cattle feed.
(Source: The Tribune, Chandigar India)

And not just this, algae farming for biofuels can also provide a solution to the food versus fuel debate. As algae does not need agriculture land, it can be grown using non-potable or seawater.

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10 Responses to Is Jatropha Curcas Biodiesel Losing out to Algae Biodiesel?

  1. Garry G October 13, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    thanks for the post… and framing of the biofuels conversation! Algae definitly has clear position in terms of real yields that can change the fueling landscape. I am a big proponent of accelerating development. But I would suspect that India’s govt will continue with funds for Jatropha projects given the country’s rural population roots. It’s just good policy to pump money and new agriculture products into the market. So I think both are likely to grow…
    Thanks!
    Garry
    Editor
    The Energy Roadmap.com

  2. Jock Brandis October 13, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    There are still unresolved algae problems. It needs some form of phosphate to be added to the water.
    If algae is grown in open ponds, the high lipid varieties will soon be contaminated and diluted by low yielding ones.
    Enclosed growing with a certain amount of seawater involved to provide trace nutrients seems to be the best hope.

  3. Bill at home October 13, 2008 at 10:32 pm #

    I would say too keep dreaming for the next ten or so years Algae will perhaps one day replace Jatropha but not in the near future,
    Harvesting Algae is still a unknown science and still in the lab.
    The Algae in the ocean created from fertilizer run of is not suitable for oil production. ( recent Olympic games in China proved this)

  4. Atul Saxena October 14, 2008 at 12:08 am #

    Thanks for the great article. In our opinion there can be multiple solutions to feedstock problems faced by Biofuel producers. Algae & Jatropha both form the part of solution. It is indeed correct that Algae is 10 times more productive than Jatropha. It is also true that algae is yet to be commercialized while Jatropha is already on the path of commercialization. So what should be the right approach?

    The main goal of Jatropha plantation should be to reclaim wasteland, act as carbon sinks, produce employment for rural masses & also produce feedstock for Biofuel industry. The short term goal of Algae farming should be to reclaim nutrients from waste water streams and recycle CO2 emissions from power plants to convert them to Biofuels.

    These steps can really help us in short term. Incidently I am the person named as Saxena in the article. You can reach me for further discussions at ceo@growdieselmail.com.

    Atul Saxena,
    CEO & Founder,
    Growdiesel Climate Care Council,
    India

  5. Michel October 14, 2008 at 5:10 am #

    I think algae biofuel will be great for the environment and the reduction of our dependence upon petroleum oil. Jatropha biodiesel has its place as well. There are difference land areas where each can work well with local labor and land quality.

  6. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com October 14, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    @Jack Brandis:Thank you for your comments
    Seems several companies are growing algae biodiesel. Check out this link:
    http://www.circlebio.com/algae_biodiesel_photobioreactors.htm

  7. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com October 14, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    @Bill: Thanks for your comments.
    Several companies are growing algae biofuels. Do you mean 10 years before algae biofuels are perfected in India or 10 years before algae biofuels will be perfected for producing biodiesel? Jatropha can only be grown in temperate zones in the world and algae biofuels can be processed in various places all over the world. Check out this link:
    http://www.circlebio.com/algae_biodiesel_photobioreactors.htm

  8. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com October 14, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    @Michel: Thanks for your comments. I agree with you.

  9. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com October 15, 2008 at 10:31 am #

    @GreenIt: Thanks for your comments. Please check out the comments left by Bill at Home. The algae in the ocean created by fertilizer run off is not suitable for biodiesel production.

  10. Black_Hand October 18, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Has any one actually seen an Algae Bio fuel prototype/

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