The Truth About Jatropha Curcas Biodiesel

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Jatropha world
(Piecing together the puzzle for Jatropha Curcas being a source for biodiesel)

I just received an interesting report about using Jatropha bushes for biodiesel production titled: “Best Practices For Long-Term Jatropha Development., A Position paper by KnowGenix.

Jatropha Curcas is being heavily planted for harvesting of it nuts to produce biodiesel. Jatropha has been the buzzword on the lips of many biofuel investors, Government Officials and researchers. The potential this plant has as an environmentally friendly and socially aware source of Biodiesel is astounding. As Jatropha is poised on the brink of commercialization, Jatropha investors have stepped up their efforts to develop a viable source of biodiesel, and some are already well on the road to success.

Check out the Chemically Green comment section where comments on investment opportunities for Jatropha Curcas have been received.

Biodiesel derived from Jatropha is fast becoming recognized as a viable source of alternative fuel to meet the rising fuel demands of countries around the world. As technological developments stand today, Jatropha has the potential to serve as fuel to power automobiles, combined heat and power (CHP) plants and cooking stoves, just to name a few.

jetropha-curcas-2.jpg
(Jatropha Plant: Photo Credit World Politicsreview)

Mediocre Results Obtained when Jatropha is not maintained properly.

However, with so many new projects coming up, and a lack of RELIABLE information, many projects are only achieving mediocre results. Plagued with funding troubles, poor plantation management, and lack of understanding of the Jatropha Curcas plant, many projects are not performing at optimal productivity.

Knowing where to place your Jatropha project is critical, and requires a holistic view of certain key criteria for site selection. These include agro-climatic conditions, availability of labor, logistical consideration and local legislation.

The Jatropha Curcas L plant is an ‘energy species’, but it needs to be domesticated as a ‘tree crop’ for widespread commercial cultivation and application.

In order to achieve maximum commercial performance, it is crucial to understand the crop’s requirements, predict its possible interactions with the environment and develop practices for industrial cultivation.

jatropha-fruit.jpg
(Jatropha Fruit Picture Credit: Woetan)

Most reported information on Jatropha Curcas does not give the whole picture and some of the major requirements for maintaining Jatropha Curcas.

1. True or False: Jatropha will grow in just about any dry or poor soil and takes little maintenance.

FALSE.
To get maximum yields from Jatropha, the soil must be cultivated, prepared and properly maintained for maximum fruit yields and more than one yearly crop. If planted in poor soil conditions, Jatropha will yield poor production or no production at all. Though reported to grow on marginal soils and land, Jartopha really needs decent quality land for maximum crop yields which will maintain any project for growing Jartropha.

2. True or False: Jatropha requires little water and will grow well even in drought conditions.

FALSE.
The use of water is the most important criteria for growing Jatropha. If sustainable fruit yields and several harvest per year are desired from Jatropha, the grown plants must be irrigated on a regular basis. In critical areas of water supply, the impact of indiscriminate removal of ground water in fragile ecosystems will have to be studied and appropriate actions taken to keep from depleting water supply during irrigation. Claims that Jatropa can grown in drought conditions or low rainfall areas is proving to be false and experience has shown Jatropha needs higher levels of water for optimum yields.

3. True of False: Jatropha is labor intensive for harvesting fruits.

TRUE.
Jatropha bushes are real compact and the fruits have to be picked by hand. Mechanical harvesting would damage the bush. Because Jatropha is such a compact bush, plant maintenance is labor intensive.

4. True or False: Jatropha contains toxins that might be harmful to man.

TRUE.
Jatropha contains a chemical toxin similar to Ricin, Curcin.

Main Toxins of Jatropha. MAIN TOXINS: Curcin – a phytotoxin (toxalbumin), found mainly in the seeds and also in the fruit and sap. Purgative oil – the seed yields 40% oil, known as hell oil, pinheon oil, oleum infernale or oleum ricini majoris, which contains small amounts of an irritant curcanoleic acid, which is related to ricinoleic acid and crotonoleic acid, the principle active ingredients of castor oil and croton oil respectively (Joubert et al., 1984). OTHER TOXINS: This genera also may contain hydrocyanic acid (CRC Critical Reviews in Toxicology 1977). There may be a dermatitis producing resin (Lampe & Fagerstrom, 1968). There may be an alkaloid, and a glycoside which produce cardiovascular and respiratory depression. Tetramethylpyrazine (TMPZ), an amide alkaloid has been obtained from the stem of J. podagrica (Ojewole & Odebiyi, 1981). Atropine-like effects have also been reported following ingestion of Jatropha multifida (Aplin 1976). For more details, please visit here

5. True or False: Jatropha Curcas has been used for medicines and possibly treatment of cancer tumors.

TRUE.

6. True or False: Millions of Dollars are being invested for growing Jatropha.

TRUE.
Check out CG previous post: Jatropha Curcas Update.

7. True or False: Many developing countries are working with Jatropha for new income sources.

TRUE.

8. True or False: Jatropha Curcas can be grown in many habitats through out the world.

FALSE.
Check out CG previous post: Jatropha Curcas Update.

9. TRUE OR FALSE: The meal left over from the Jatropha seeds after oil extraction make a good fertilizer for recycling.

True. The Meal after extraction an excellent organic manure (38%Protien N:P:K ration 2.7:1.2:1).

So what are the major considerations for growing Jatropha Curcas and other plants (Palm) for biodiesel?

To ensure sustained use of water supplies, land and natural resources, the development of biofuels must be planned, managed and maintained. Ecosystems and Rainforests through out the world, that are being destroyed for the sake of biofuels, must be stopped. Other major considerations are land competition for food vs. biofuel production, considerations on habitat destruction and animal species, availability of water, pollution of lands with fertilizers which can lead to soil erosion, safety of people who harvest phytoproducts for biofuel production and issues of developing large massive plants instead of small localized plants near the crops that will be used to manufacture biofuels.

jatropha-curcas-4.jpg
(Jatropha Seeds Photo Credit: Nrfigueiredo)

Jatropha Curcas looks like it will be a main factor in the race to produce biodiesel.

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36 Responses to The Truth About Jatropha Curcas Biodiesel

  1. Gloria September 11, 2008 at 12:07 pm #

    Just to inquire, how much water is needed for optimum yied of jatropha for the biofuels production?

  2. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com September 15, 2008 at 6:42 pm #

    @ Igor Khools: Thanks for the comments. True, palm oil gives better yields than Jatropha, but millions of dollars are being invested in the development of Jatropha for biodiesel fuels because it is so efficient.

    This particular oil (Jatropha) holds a lot of future promise. Jatropha nuts provide up to 2,270 liters of high-quality biodiesel per hectare. Boasting 60 octane, it is one of the most effective bio-oils in the world. Refined Jatropha oil can be used for diesel motors with just minor modifications to the engine. What is more, the fuel is clean and environmentally friendly: it contains no sulphur, offers an outstanding CO2 balance and can thus contribute to protecting the climate.

  3. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com September 15, 2008 at 6:43 pm #

    @ This Week’s Popular Green Links: Thanks for your comments

  4. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com September 15, 2008 at 6:44 pm #

    @ Gloria: Thanks for your comment. I cannot give you a specific answer, but the condition of the land and the lands location will have a lot to do with irrigation requirements.

  5. Michel October 16, 2008 at 1:52 am #

    I hope jatropha can help the people who need it most without hurting much land while doing so. It can be labor intensive but if it creates jobs that should be a good thing. Plus innovation will solve some problems.

  6. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com November 4, 2008 at 4:29 pm #

    @Michel: Thanks for your comments. Jatropha is showing a lot of interest as a source for biodiesel. I agree with you and the main goals of Jatropha production will be to not harm the land and provide jobs for communities that need income on a regular basis.

  7. Jose A. Castillo February 4, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    You said The Meal after extraction an excellent organic manure, but, what about Tetra methyl pyrazine in jatropha, the Poisonous parts of the Jatropha in soil when used in short, medium and large term.

  8. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com February 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    @ Jose A. Castillo: Thank you for your questions and comments.
    Jatropha seed cake plays a significant role in meeting fertilizer needs and enhancing agricultural production without the use of polluting chemicals. Jatropha seed cake, as an organic fertilizer, is superior to cow-dung manure and is in great demand by agriculturists.

    From what I can understand, Tetra methyl pyrazine is found in the stem of the plant. The plant is not being harvested for fertilizer, only the pulp from the seeds after oil extraction.

  9. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com February 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm #

    @ Jose A. Castillo: one more comment for your information.

    Jatropha oil is used for making candles and soap. The seed fruit shell is used as a fuel for burning. The seed cake that remains after extraction of jatropha can be used as organic fertilizer or for animal feed. Foreign governments are planning to reduce the import of petro products by selling a mixture of diesel with Jatropha extracted oil.

  10. Ian Coates February 12, 2009 at 1:55 am #

    All thius =ve stuff about Jattropha is all very well; here in South ASfrica we have a givernmet that has decided/ edicted that Jatropha Curcas is an alien invasive species (even though it does not sefl seed pr self propagate) and it is NLOT approved for large scale planting here; so we make do with the importation of costly Petro-diesel instead. Of course our home-grown SASOL (oil from Coal CTL plants) gets to secure its 45% gauarnteed share of the local fuel market withiout “inteference”. I just wonmder if that is the real reason for the local intransiegence?

  11. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com February 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    @Ian Coates:Thanks for your comments. Sasol is the big operator in your area. Sounds like politics are helping Sasol get its 45% market share without “interference”

  12. Ninnoekuu Joachim March 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    i do not have comments,rather i want to know whether the white latex of jatropha can be used to produce tooth paste. if yes, how?

  13. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com March 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm #

    @Ninnoekuu Joachim: Thanks for your contact.
    I have not heard of white latex of Jatropha being used to produce tooth paste. Where did you get this information.
    Please check out this link:
    http://tinyurl.com/bhh8sy

  14. Ang Dawa Lama April 3, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    I am very impressed by your web page. I am very much interested about Jatropha curcas for reducing soil erosion and produce bio fuel in the lower hilly area of Nepal but how expensive to produce bio diesel from jatropha oil is still unknown to me. I would be very glad if you provide some cost benefit analysis regarding this plant.

  15. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com April 4, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    @Ang Dawa Lama: Thanks for your comments.
    I cannot answer your question due to not knowing the exact conditions you wish to grow Jatropha Curcas. Soil conditions, yearly rain fall, availability of water, yearly climate conditions are some of the growing variables that will have to be evaluated before growing Jatropha in your area.

    Currently, there are major Jatropha plantation projects being carried out in India. I recommend you try and find the Jatropha project closest to you and they should be able to answer your questions.

  16. bounpasakxay April 8, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    Could you chip the data of this Jatropha plantation in Lao PDR in 2008

  17. fernando marcos April 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    My name is Fernando, i’ve been living in a small farm, in Corinto city, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. We’ve already made biodiesel from waste vegetable oil, i got the transesterification process by net. Make money in our region is so hard, because is a pour city. So, we started a jatropha curcas field for 2 years, 5 ha (50000 m2), we put in that field all our financial resource. But now we have a problem, after press the seed and get the oil, we have a cake, we need, need, need, use it for animal nutrition (cow and bull). I would like to know if you could learn me transform that cake in animal feed, cause it is toxic.

    please, it is very import, help me please

    regards

    fernando marcos
    77-9121-4646
    Brazil

    address:
    street: Decima travessa da rua são luiz n° 37
    bairro: jardim imperial
    city: Barreiras
    state: Bahia
    country: Brazil

  18. Ian Coates April 18, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    For Frenando Marcos;
    I suggest that you contact D1 Oils who hav ebeen doing soem research work on th eopportunity to process teh watse oilsedd cake into anumal feed. It appears that they have succeeded and I am sure they can help you.

    http://www.d1plc.com/

    Animal Feed Breakthrough for Jatropha – 04/02/09
    The research arm of D1 Oils plc (D1), D1 Oils Plant Science, today announces that it has developed and is patenting a process that expels crude biodiesel oil from Jatropha seeds and at the same time purifies the seedcake (meal) left after oil extra…

    http://www.d1plc.com/news.php?article=188

  19. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com April 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm #

    @fernando marcos: Thanks for your inquiry and comments. Please check out http://www.d1plc.com/ for information on removing impurities from Jatropha cake.

    Also, check out http://www.d1plc.com/news.php?article=188
    for comments on this article.

    Many thanks to Ian Coates for this information in the comment section of this post.

  20. oba April 27, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    What really is the amount of tons of seeds that can be obtained from 1hectare. and also how many litres of biodiesel can be from a tonne of seed. Heard u can get 6tonnes per hectare from the first year and up to 25 tonnes from the 5th year. Pls confirm.

  21. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com April 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    @oba: Thanks for your contact and questions.

    I recommend you contact: Ummu Hani
    email address: hani@cmtsp.com.sg

    He should be able to give you some basic information that you seek.

    It is very hard to make recommendations about yield of Jatropha because if the plants are not maintained properly, yields will be very poor. Also, plant location, soil conditions and other variables need to be evaluated.
    If seeds are not handled properly and maintained, they will not germinate.
    Until these items are evaluated, yields are hard to determine. A lot of inflated values have been given on Jatropha yields.
    Trust this will get you started.

  22. Ian Coates April 29, 2009 at 2:57 am #

    Jatropha Yields:
    It sems that many people do not realise that Jatropha Curcas is still an “Uncultivated” plant and that much development work has still to be axccomplished. Several companies are moving ahead in this field and yields can hopefully be expecrted to rise.

    Test information that we were given (about two years ago), was that a yeilds of 4.5 to 6.0 kg of fruit per tree is recorded when there are ‘adequate / normal’ rainfall conditions. The area where the tests were done, on mature wild trees is on the coast, south of Maputo, in Northern KZN province of South Africa and has an average rainfall of 1200 to 1600mm.

    Some individual free-standing trees produced up to 12kg per season. Obviously planting density per Ha will have an influence on yields as will rainfall, soil condition and nutrients.

    At a planting density of 1000/Ha (3m x3m spacing but allowing some rows to be vacant,for in-field servicing/access) and conservative yield of 4.5 Kg/ Ha = 4500kg/Ha and at 35% oil extrtaction,, perhaps 1500kg of raw oil/Ha or about 1670litres/Ha (Matured trees from year 3 onwards?).

    Seedcake residue is therefore expected to be about 3 tonne/Ha. [4500 -1500kg).

    Some reports suggest that oil extraction can be increased when using “solvent extraction”. We need to have some information on this!

    Can anyone comment on these expectations?

  23. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 13, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    @oba:
    This is estimated information you wanted from Ian Coates.

    At a planting density of 1000/Ha (3m x3m spacing but allowing some rows to be vacant,for in-field servicing/access) and conservative yield of 4.5 Kg/ Ha = 4500kg/Ha and at 35% oil extrtaction,, perhaps 1500kg of raw oil/Ha or about 1670litres/Ha (Matured trees from year 3 onwards?).

  24. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 13, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    @Ian Coates: Thank you for your comments and information. I will try and get info to you on solvent use for increased oil yields.

  25. oba May 13, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    Thanks Ian. Contacted D1 oils in the uk about this and they were kind enough to tell me i could get a yield of about 3tonne/Ha. They have large scale plantations in India and Africa.

    @ ian: You can use Hexane has a solvent to increase yield but there are strong claims that Hexane releases more green house gases in the atmosphere and therefore not accepted in some countries. I also know that other solvents still exist but Hexane being the most popular.

    Does anyone have any take on cross cultivating Jatropha with non-edible safflower? Had a conversation with an R&D company in india and they think the would be a better way to go for investors as safflower produces mature seeds btw 120-160days and refining can start right away instead of waiting on the Jatropha for a year or two!

  26. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 13, 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    @Ian Coates: Ian check out this link for solvent information for Jatropha

    http://tinyurl.com/ofpsvl

    Trust this will help you.

  27. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    @Ian Coates: Ian I found this article about growing Jatropha and the importance of cultivation, fertilizer and watering of the plants. A project in India has given poor Jatropha oil results.

    LINK: http://tinyurl.com/q665qb

    It seems even D1 oil is not getting the oil yields that earlier reports have reported. If this report is factual, then Jatropha has a lengthy road to follow before large amounts of oil are realize. Please comment on this article.

  28. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 13, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    @Oba: please check out this article. For your information.

    LINK: http://tinyurl.com/q665qb

    Trust this will shed some light on
    your work with Jatropha.

  29. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 13, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    @Oba: I found this Power Point presentation on Jatropha.
    For your review and information.

    http://tinyurl.com/q5nooa

  30. Ian Coates May 14, 2009 at 5:41 am #

    Yields from Jatropha:Responding to articles #28 & #30 above.

    It would appear that many people have developed the mistaken expectation that Jatropha Curcas will and can grow on very marginal soils and in low-rainfall areas. Whereas th eplant may ‘grow’ in these circumatnces, like any ther agricultural crop, better soil and adequate water are needed if there is an expectation of commercially viable yields.

    In formation tah I p[rovided earflier was extracted formn techniocal reports form trial plantations showing that commercial yields had been achieved of around 4.5kg of seed per tree yieldsing about 35% oil form the seed or about 1,0Kg of oil extracted per tree after three years of growth.

    Based upon a planting denisty of only 1100 trees per Ha, this would then translate into a little more than 1 metric tonne of oil per Ha/ year only.

    Further reports then show that as the trees mature and when adequate water and plant-feeding is applied, yields may then increase but the yields would not be achieved if the plant was under-managed.

    The expectation (in some quarters) that the Jatropha Tree is a magical and proliferant producer on marginal soils is therefore a myth.

    Obviously the commercialisation of the Jatropha Curcas
    tree is in need of further advancement and theer are companies already engaged in that process, sleecting the plants for better yeilds adn other preferred traits. D1 Oils (UK) and in the Netherlands seems to have davanced significantly in this direction.

    With regard to the production fo other oils-seed crops such as Safflower/ Canola/ Soya etc it must be considered that unlike Jatropha, these crops all require very significant annual inputs for the replanting of the crop and for the land preparation energy costs that must be offset against the amount of usable oil that can be extracted per Hectare; this is why the Jatropha Tree is receueving such focussed attention, because the planting is done once and the tree has a life expectancy of more than 50 years!

    Long-term production costs vs Yields are therefore expected to achieve commercially viable status. Now that the residual oil-presse-cake can also be processed and made palatable for animal feed use (and has a higher protein value than Soya!), great expectations are now on the horizon for Jatropha!

  31. Keteke May 27, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Looks like everyone is talking about the cultivation of Jatropha. What is the market for the Jatropha seeds like. Can you please advice on this, If I decide to cultivate it in Ghana, West Africa, how do I get immediate market for it within the 24 hr window required from harvesting to processing. As far as I know there are no Jatropha processing plants in Ghana yet.

  32. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com May 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    @Keteke: Thanks for your comments. Chemically Green has forwarded your email address to a company that handles Jatropha seeds and he will be contacting you and can help you with your questions on Jatropha.

    Trust this will be helpful and if Chemically Green can be of further service to help you, please contact us.

  33. luziraf June 22, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Just wonder whether is there any commercial biodiesel plant in the world use J.curcas oil as raw material? I know it is an interesting subject in research world, but apart from that, there is no tangible reason why people start cultivating the plant in mass. D1 a while ago try to use the oil, but they themselves going algae this days.

  34. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com July 11, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    @farizulhafiz@gmail.com: Thank u for your comments. Believe it or not, Jatropha is being heavily grown in India and other similar climates. Japan is working on a large Jatropha project. Also, In India, General Motors is working on developing a freezed resistant variety hybrid of Jatropha. Jatropha is a lot harder to grow and maintain than original information that was hyped about Jatropha. There are commerical airlines that have completed jet flights using blends of Jatropha, algae biofuels blended with regular aviation fuel.

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