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Bharat Renewable Energy allies with SG Biofuels to deploy Jatropha hybrids for biodiesel in India

Bharat Renewable Energy Ltd (BREL), a joint-venture of Bharat Petroleum, India’s second largest petroleum company, has initiated a program with SG Biofuels (SGB) to develop and deploy elite hybrids of Jatropha for the production of biodiesel in India.

The program’s first phase includes a crop development effort to produce high-performing hybrid varieties of Jatropha adapted to unique growing conditions across the country. Additional phases include the deployment of more than 86,000 acres of Jatropha using SGB’s JMax hybrid seeds.

SGB will draw from the advancements of its global JMax crop development centers where the company is optimizing elite hybrid varieties of Jatropha through a combination of molecular breeding and biotechnology. The centers feature hybrid material from the company’s germplasm library totaling more than 12,000 genotypes. SGB will work with BREL to select, test and scale the highest yielding, most commercially viable hybrid varieties for growing regions in India, including the initial 86,000 acre deployment.

In December 2009, the Indian Government developed its National Policy on Biofuels targeting 20% blending of bioethanol and biodiesel into gasoline and diesel markets. Government policy stipulates the use of wastelands to cultivate non-edible oil seed plants without affecting food security. According to the Asian Development Bank, the current cultivation of Jatropha and other non-edible oilseeds will need to increase by nearly 80 million acres to meet the nation’s biodiesel targets.



Meanwhile, millions will starve next door in North-East Africa.


So far the Jatropha program in India and China have been an absolute failure, 80% of farmers have dropped jatropha, the yield are too low and requires too much labor not economical, this plant hasn't been cultivated before so it is not suited to high yield. Anyway the promise of biofuel is running thin these days, the American Scientist made an article this month and he outlook doesn't sound good. Even the cellulosic ethanol looks like a joke with start up going out of cash and ethanol plant being idle unfinished for lack of cash.


With oil at $80, biofuel looks less attractive. Also, regulations, infrastructure, and adoption do not come quickly, so some companies may be ahead of the curve. By the time biofuels are available on a larger scale, I think electricity will be more competitive due to CHP, and improved PV and Wind resources -- not to mention what seems to be a rapidly progressing distributed grid implementation with ecpanded Bloom Box use.


JMartin, you are right. The word on the energy investment street is there are many new distributed alternatives on the way. The general attitude is for combined traditional grid and distributed CHP/PV and SOFCs like Bloom Box.

At the moment only the excess heat systems look to be truly competitive - but we need to see them in operation. Japan's Tokyo Gas demos for Micro CHP look good where there is a need for heat and electric. The oilcos are desperately trying to keep the price per barrel at $80 which is low enough to keep many alternatives non-competitive.

What is clear to the energy investment community is there are BIG changes coming and everything is in play.

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