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BP's answer to food-based ethanol
The oil giant believes an inedible plant called jatropha can ease global
fuel demands. It could boost incomes in Africa and other impoverished
By Carolyn Whelan, Fortune
September 7 2007: 6:02 AM EDT
(Fortune Magazine) -- Can a poisonous plant become a biodiesel hero and
help African economies in the process?
_link> ) thinks so. It believes jatropha - an inedible plant used for
hedges that was spread around the world centuries ago by Portuguese
sailors - can dent global fuel demands without using up foodstuffs such
as corn, soy and sugar cane, plus boost incomes in Africa and other
In June the oil giant signed a $160 million deal with British biodiesel
producer Dl Oils, creating a joint venture that aims to become the
world's largest producer of jatropha oil by 2011. The new company
expects to have nearly three million acres under cultivation within four
years and process roughly two million tons annually - or 18% of Europe's
expected biodiesel demand.
Big ethanol shakeout coming?
"The deal with Dl is all about developing a biofuels business," says BP
spokeswoman Wendy Silcock. Half of the 12 countries targeted for bulk
plantings are in Africa.
Because it can grow year-round in arid soil and is inedible, jatropha
won't innate food prices or take up valuable cropland. Africa is
considered ideal because of its proximity to European markets and low
land and labor costs. "Jatropha is low input," says Steve Douty,
executive director of Dl Oils. "It survives where others don't. It also
grows best 25 degrees south or north of the equator. A big chunk of
Africa is in that band."
In addition, Jatropha oil can be produced commercially within three
years of planting, compared with seven years for palm oil; plus, it is a
living fence that keeps cattle in and sand out and can survive for 50
years. Best of all, jatropha seeds generate up to 40% of their weight in
oil with ample fertilizer and water, and 30% even in scrubland - far
more than soybeans' 18%.
Jatropha sap has long been used in Latin American medicines for its
antibacterial qualities. The seed is used for fertilizer in Africa
because it is rich in soil nutrients, and the oil is used for French
soaps. But pressing oil from its seeds for energy is recent, and current
production is negligible. Today jatropha accounts for less than 1% of
High oil prices and the rising cost of food oils make jatropha
attractive - as does a looming European mandate requiring that 10% of
all transport fuel be biofuel by 2020. Global biodiesel output needs to
grow more than ninefold to meet that demand.
More on biofuels <http://money.cnn.com/news/greenbiz/index.html>
Jatropha is becoming popular elsewhere as well. Energy-starved India led
research into jatropha and is believed to have nearly 250,000 acres
under cultivation. China reportedly has 100 times that. And in July,
SE-Energy Technology announced it will build the largest U.S. biodiesel
plant, using primarily jatropha, in Chesapeake, Va.
Even private equity is getting in on the act, says Turi Munthe, a London
investor who is raising funds for a 124,000-acre jatropha plantation in
Ghana. "Africa is the place for it."
From: Heck,Patrick T
Sent: Friday, September 07, 2007 1:30 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: BP's answer to food-based ethanol
I'm hearing a lot of negative feedback regarding ethanol as an
alternative fuel. Here is a short article from Fortune magazine which
discusses an alternative source for biodiesel. Is this common already
and I've just missed it? Any other thoughts or comments?
"BP's answer to food-based ethanol: The oil giant believes an inedible
plant called jatropha can ease global fuel demands. It could boost
incomes in Africa and other impoverished regions too."
Patrick T. Heck
SNRE, Research and Outreach/Extension Office
Phone (352) 392-7622
[log in to unmask]