Oil industry exec says no guaranteed market yet for jatropha

For Fernando Martinez, chairman of Eastern Petroleum Corp., there has not been proof, too, that pure biodiesel from Jatropha curcas (tuba-tuba) can actually make a local car running.

“Diesel vehicles designed in the country could not run on pure biodiesel, unlike in Europe,” said Martinez, who is also founding chair of the Independent Petroleum Companies Association.

He warned that the Department of Energy has not yet conducted widespread testing of Jatropha biodiesel in the country.

He opined that jatropha planting could just be a fad with no clear benefits to farmers, who are lured to buy jatropha saplings, plant them because of the worldwide craze, but the market for the seeds is uncertain.
In many poor countries, jatropha is planted in vast tracts of unused lands, and its seeds crushed to produce the oil which is processed into biodiesel.

Although biodiesel from the plant has not been produced in commercial quantities, experiments conducted by automotive giant DaimlerChrysler in India in 2004 showed that even with simple production processes, “jatropha-based biofuel can be used without any problems” in vehicles adapted for biodiesel.

The company tested a Mercedes Benz running on jatropha biodiesel to tour across India, covering over 5,900 kilometers yet experiencing no problem at all.

Furthermore, DaimlerChrysler noted that jatropha biodiesel “produces only half of the unburned hydrocarbon emissions and one-third of the particulate emissions produced by diesel fuel derived from crude petroleum.”

Martinez’ firm, however, is still a believer in biofuel, but with cassava as raw material. It has partnered with the Chinese firm Guanxi State Farm and is eyeing a P1.8-billion ethanol plant here.

Early this year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Biofuels Act requiring at least one percent biodiesel blend within three months of its implementation, rising to two percent within two years after the law takes effect

Under the biofuels act, oil companies are mandated to blend five percent ethanol in gasoline products two years after the signing.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap has said the Spanish firm Bionor Transformacion S.A plans to invest $200 million in the Philippines to develop at least 100,000 hectares of land into jatropha plantations for biodiesel use.
Bionor is expected to export the potential product to Europe, where it markets three blends of biodiesel and one pure variety. Bionor operates two biodiesel plants in Spain and Italy with a combined output of 125,000 metric tons (MT).

The Philippine National Oil Co.-Alternative Fuels Corp. (PNOC-AFC) has also explored jatropha biodiesel when it signed an agreement with the Land Bank of the Philippines to provide jatropha farmers access to financing.
The PNOC-AFC is tasked to accelerate the use and commercialization of alternative sources of energy in line with the government's aim to reduce the country's dependence to oil and coal. It is eyeing Zamboanga, General Santos, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon for the jatropha plantations. (MindaNews)