Use as biodiesel
Jatropha plantation in the dry center/west of the Paraguay Chaco
When jatropha seeds are crushed, the resulting jatropha oil can be processed to produce a high-quality biodiesel that can be used in a standard diesel car, while the residue (press cake) can also be processed and used as biomass feedstock to power electricity plants or used as fertilizer (it contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).
“From planting to harvest. Treat the jatropha plant as well as possible to make the harvest as large as possible!” (A reference to the compulsory planting of jatropha in Indonesia for the production of oil as machinery lubricant and fuel for the Japanese WWII war effort.)
The plant may yield more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean, and more than ten times that of maize (corn). A hectare of jatropha has been claimed to produce 1,892 litres of fuel.However, as it has not yet been domesticated or improved by plant breeders, yields are variable
Researchers at Daimler Chrysler Research explored the use of jatropha oil for automotive use, concluding that although jatropha oil as fuel “has not yet reached optimal quality, … it already fulfills the EU norm for biodiesel quality”. Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bayer CropScience and Daimler AG have a joint project to develop jatropha as a biofuel Three Mercedes cars powered by Jatropha diesel have already put some 30,000 kilometres behind them. The project is supported by DaimlerChrysler and by the German Association for Investment and Development (Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, DEG).
In 2007 Goldman Sachs cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production.However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species has been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown.
Myanmar is also actively pursuing the use of jatropha oil. On 15 December 2005, then-head of state, Senior General Than Shwe, said “the States and Divisions concerned are to put 50,000 acres (200 km²) under the physic nut plants [Jatropha] each within three years totalling 700,000 acres (2,800 km²) during the period”. On the occasion of Myanmar’s Peasant Day 2006, Than Shwe described in his a message that “For energy sector which is an essential role in transforming industrial agriculture system, the Government is encouraging for cultivation of physic nut plants nationwide and the technical know how that can refine physic nuts to biodiesel has also identified.” He would like to urge peasants to cultivate physic nut plants on a commercial scale with major aims for emergence of industrial agriculture system, for fulfilling rural electricity supply and energy needs, for supporting rural areas development and import substitute economy. (2005 from MRTV)
In 2006, the chief research officer at state-run Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise said Myanmar hoped to completely replace the country’s oil imports of 40,000 barrels a day with home-brewed, jatropha-derived biofuel. Other government officials declared Myanmar would soon start exporting jatropha oil. Despite the military’s efforts, the jatropha campaign apparently has largely flopped in its goal of making Myanmar self-sufficient in fuel. (2006 from MyawaddyTV)
Z.G.S. Bioenergy has started Jatropha Plantation Projects in Northern Shan State, the company has begun planting Jatropha plants during late June 2007 and will start selling the seeds in large quantities by early 2010. The manager of the project site said that Z.G.S. will sell Jatropha seeds to both local and foreign markets; the company will also further research on Jatropha plants for higher quality seeds and better yields. (20 July 2007 from New Light of Myanmar)
Use as jet fuel
Aviation fuels may be more widely substituted with biofuels such as jatropha oil than fuels for other forms of transportation. There are fewer planes than cars or trucks and far fewer jet fueling stations to convert than gas stations. On December 30, 2008, Air New Zealand flew the first successful test flight with a Boeing 747 running one of its four Rolls-Royce engines on a 50:50 blend of jatropha oil and jet A-1 fuel.Subsequently, Air New Zealand and Houston based Continental Airlines have run tests in Jan. 2009, further demonstrating the viability of jatropha oil as a jet fuel. Japan Air also plans test flights in Jan. 2009 as well.
Jatropha oil is lauded as being sustainable, and that its production would not compete with food production, but the jatropha plant needs water like every other crop to grow. This fact could create competition for water between the jatropha and other edible food crops. In fact, jatropha requires five times as much water per unit of energy as sugarcane and corn.
Nevertheless, jatropha grows in tropical climates with plentiful yearly rainfall (1000-1500mm). It would only require irrigation in the first year of its 35 year life.