Renewable energy in India currently is around 14.44% of the total installed capacity from all sources (as on April 30, 2016). The share of biomass fuel among the renewable is only 15.7% less than half of the targeted production.
Even as the share of renewable energy is far lower than its target, the government has decided to close down two plants producing biofuel from Jatropha plants.� The Union Cabinet decided to close down two biofuel plants in Chhattisgarh ? CREDA HPCL Biofuel Limited and Indian Oil-CREDA Biofuels Limited.
?Due to various constraints such as poor yield, limited availability of wasteland and high plantation maintenance cost, the project became unviable and jatropha plantation activities were discontinued,? said a press release of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on March 23, 2017.
?Jatropha is a good source for oil content, but we do not have the advanced technology, as the purification process for the Jatropha based biodiesel is very challenging, because you need to remove the catalysts and glycerol (by-product) ...because efficient technology is not available in India,? Dr. Shailesh Shah, a chemical scientists who studied the possibilities of alternative sources of non-edible oil feedstock for the production of biofuels in India, told Indian Science Journal. ?Another reason is, big oil companies have invested hugely in refineries, and therefore, they are not motivated in developing a new technology to production of biodiesel from Jatropha.?
?Second, currently auto manufacturers have only the technology to use petrol and diesel in the engines of vehicles. Bio-fuel mixed fuel (more than 20% blend) might require certain changes in the engine technology, which they are not keen. This would entail development of appropriate technology at additional investments,? commented Dr. Shah.
According to industry leaders, ?the commercial usage of the Jatropha by-products increases the efficiency and profitability of the Jatropha and the biofuel industry. The Jatropha by-products are nothing but the Jatropha seed cake and the glycerol that is got during the process of oil extraction and corresponding biodiesel production. The Jatropha cake left after the extraction of oil can be used as an excellent organic fertilizer and also to power generator.?
According to available information on public domain, ?these cakes are rich in proteins and carbohydrates and also contain bioactive compounds. There is a lot of chance to produce biogas, produce gas, and briquettes from the Jatropha cake.
Another important by-product of Jatropha based biodiesel is the glycerol which is used in the production of Propylene Glycol and surfactants. The Propylene glycol is used in the production of unsaturated polyester resins, poly ether polyols, functional fluids, cosmetics and toiletries flavour.
Dr. Shah suggested another alternative ? oil from Hingot (Biological name Balanites roxburghii), which grows in abundance in the semi-arid region of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Its seeds yield 2.5 tonnes/acres in the third year, while in the seventh year, in non-irrigated conditions its yield goes up to 8.5 tons/acre. The Hingot oil showed good physio-chemical properties, which could be used as non-edible feedstock in the production of biodiesel.
Dr. Shah said, with the international mandate to phase out fossil fuel by 2100, Indian government should step in to develop the technology to produce hydrocarbon (Green-diesel-2nd Generation of biodiesel) from Jatropha, otherwise, we might face fuel crunch, when the world is moving away from fossil fuel. Like the USA, India should make it compulsory for oil majors to mix a certain percentage of biofuel (5 to 20%) in petrol and diesel mandatory as per geographical location of states, he added.
Image courtesy: Indian Oil-CREDA Biofuels Limited.
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