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Quest for bio-fuel gathers steam
     
June 30, 2005 - Times of India

With bio-fuels turning into a major area of research the world over. several Indian companies are tuning into that spectrum of work. Many see bio-diesel generated from jatropha plants to be the answer to the world's fuel concerns and India's wastelands are gearing up for that challenge.

It is a clean burning alternative fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources. It contains no petroleum and can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. It is made through a chemical process called trans-esterification, whereby glycerin is separated from fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products - methyl esters (bio-diesel) and glycerin (to be used in soaps)

DaimlerChrysler was one of the companies which put jatropha on the business map of the world by initiating a bio-diesel project. The carmaker has already demonstrated the prowess of bio-fuels by running Mercs with the help of bio-diesel extracted from jatropha.

In India, Hyderabad-based Southern Online Biotechnologies (SBT) announced a week ago that it has plans to set up India's first ever bio-diesel plant with a capacity of 10,000 tonnes a year. Mysore-based Labland Biotechs has also just joined the fray.

Labland Biotechs officials say it has tied up with UK-based firm Dl Oils Plc, to generate bio-diesel from jatropha, As per the deal, Labland will have to supply 10 million of these plants every year for the next 10 years. It will also be responsible for supply of jatropha seed oil for the next 13 years.

Labland managing director Sudheer Shetty said the arapany is promoting contract cultivation of jatropha in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. "We are going to target about 25,000 hectares per year for the next five years," he says.

Jatropha can be grown in wastelands and dry surfaces. Companies, such as Labland and SBT, are trying to produce bio-fuel generating plants by application of tissue culture.

Labland executive director (technical) Geetha Singh says bio-diesel production is devoid of pollution, as jatropha itself has the capability to absorb pollutants from the air.

The employability of bio-diesel was proved when DaimlerChrysler ran a Mercedes-Benz C220 using jatropha fuel for a distance of 5,900 km covering 11 Indian cities in 2004. The results of the experiment proved that jatropha fuels could be used in modern diesel engines.

According to DaimlerChrysler officials, the bio-fuel produced only half the unburned hydrocarbon emissions and one-third of the particulate emissions produced by diesel derived from crude petroleum.

DaimlerChrysler director (finance & corporate affairs) Suhas Kadlaskar says the company will undertake another road test from Chandigarh to Ladakh in August this year. "This will be to find out whether bio-diesel can withstand winter temperatures," says Kadlaskar.

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