Stuttgart – Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), Bayer CropScience AG and Daimler AG plan to jointly explore the potential for a biodiesel industry based on Jatropha (Jatropha curcas L.). A respective Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the companies. Jatropha, a tropical plant from the Euphorbia family, is seen by the three cooperating partners as a promising alternative energy feedstock for the production of biodiesel. Biodiesel derived from Jatropha nut kernels has properties similar to those of biofuels obtained from oilseed rapes. It is also characterized by a positive CO2 balance and can thus contribute to protecting the climate.
In this project, the companies are seeking to develop production and quality standards for Jatropha-based biofuel. ADM is running several biodiesel refineries worldwide. Bayer CropScience plans to develop and register herbicides, soil insecticides and fungicides for disease and pest control of Jatropha plants. At the end of last year, Daimler AG completed a wide-ranging five-year research project which demonstrated that Jatropha can be used and cultivated to obtain high-quality biodiesel and studied the use of this fuel in test vehicles. The company will continue to explore the interactions between fuel and engine in vehicles powered by Jatropha biodiesel and mixtures of this and other fuels.
Dr. Peter Reimers, General Manager, European Oleo Chemicals at ADM said: “By diversifying the world’s energy supplies, we increase global energy security and create for many nations the ability to produce fuel from local sources.” Dr. Rüdiger Scheitza, Member of Board of Management of Bayer CropScience and Head of Global Portfolio Management, said: “Energy is a fundamental and indivisible human need. Sustainable production of Jatropha without impacting food production is not only an interesting option on marginal areas. It might be a further essential key in renewable energy strategies of the future.” Prof. Dr. Herbert Kohler, Vice President Vehicle and Powertrain, Group Research and Advanced Engineering and Chief Environmental Officer of Daimler AG: “Alternative fuels are an integral part of our roadmap towards sustainable mobility. Our research activities within the last years have proven for example, that Jatropha biodiesel can be produced with quality similar to biodiesel from oil seeds. Now, it is time to evaluate the commercial potential of Jatropha biodiesel.”
Jatropha – a promising energy feedstock
Jatropha is actually a “wild plant”, and therefore it has never been professionally cultivated. Recent studies show a potential of approximately 30 million hectares of land on which this plant could be grown, especially in South America, Africa and in Asian countries such as China, India or Indonesia. Since Jatropha can be cultivated on barren land, it does not compete for land that is being used for food production, and thus provides farmers with an additional source of income.
Jatropha originates from Cental America, and was transported to Africa and Asia by Portuguese sailors on their voyages round the world. It is a hardy, drought tolerant plant and can be cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical regions, and even on degredaded soil. It requires very little water or fertilizer. The plant is an excellent source of renewable energy because its seeds contain more than 30 percent oil. Furthermore, it is excellent for preventing soil erosion caused by water and/or wind. Jatropha can be maintained economically for 30 to 40 years.