Friday, September 30th, 2022 04:54:55

A Greener Horizon

Updated: May 23, 2015 2:30 pm

In India the Jatropha Curcas plant is being cultivated and is rich in oil content. This plant is part of India’s plan to attain energy sustainability and therefore provide an alternative to soybean and sunflower

Our Prime Minister articulated his apprehensions on the condition of agriculture in Punjab. He recently asked farmers to diversify. Our leaders are, on occasion, confronted by conundrums. Diversification in any endeavour is possible, after an analysis. We could study the cultivation of certain plants for the creation of bio diesel, a cheap renewable fuel. What is fuel? How did it come into our lives? If petroleum is harmful and expensive what is the solution? Let us view oil from the pristine past and perceive how our farms can help produce a renewable fuel; safe for the environment and economical to produce and purchase. Yes, this will be a diversification.

More than 4000 years ago asphalt, a residue of petroleum, was used in the construction of walls in Babylon; translations in The Bible’s Book of Genesis, refer to this substance being used to bind bricks for the Tower of Babel; a tributary of the river Euphrates had oil pits in its banks; beyond Babylon, asphalt or its archaic name “pitch”, was used to line baskets in the Indus Valley Civilization. It was much later when serious extraction of oil began in 1859. In the beginning it was used for making kerosene to provide artificial light. For a short while petrol and diesel were “unwanted;” but then arrived the development of internal combustion engines. If we stabilize the demand for oil the consequences will be significant. The economy and environment would benefit. But can mankind with his “God like intellect,” (Darwin), find a substitute for oil which will perhaps protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gases ? We will need to focus our kaleidoscope on Argentina.

A country that is endowed with natural resources and is the top exporter of soya bean oil and soya bean; in addition, Argentina produces 13.9 per cent of sunflower oil in the world and is ranked third. Fuel produced in the form of biodiesel from soya bean and sunflower is eco friendly and reduces pollution. It could serve as a replacement for petroleum fuels in future. The byproduct in bio diesel, glycerin, is organic. Argentina has the status of being the prime market for making and selling renewable biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel is renewable because the process of refining oil is derived from plants. The fuel can power diesel engines without further conversion. This gives biodiesel a remarkable advantage over ethanol which is used in standard gasoline engines after it has been blended with petroleum . When Rudolf Diesel invented bio diesel, in the 1890’s, he also created an engine that could run on peanut oil.

Imperium Renewables from Seattle, is to begin establishing a biodiesel refinery in Argentina. CEO, Martin Tobias, says they will produce 100 million gallons of fuel per year. They hope to lower the plant’s construction costs with help from new technologies. The company also plans to build “micro refineries”, in rural areas, to reach out to farmers in isolated zones; this policy has been termed the “sell local scheme.”

Edmundo Defferari an industrial engineer, built a prototype of a micro refinery 145 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires; it cost him 150,000 dollars. The refinery began producing 130,000 gallons of biodiesel a year. He needs labour only to load the plant with soya bean and to then turn it on. He sells the fuel to local farmers for 95 cents a gallon. His customers grow the soya bean feedstock which he loads into the machinery.

In the future biodiesel, in Argentina, will comprise 10 per cent of diesel fuel. An appropriate law has been approved. Their Government announced that this was the country’s first step for an entry into the “renewable fuels era”.

In India the Jatropha Curcas plant is being cultivated and is rich in oil content. This plant is part of India’s plan to attain energy sustainability and therefore provide an alternative to soya bean and sunflower. Dr Abdul Kalam stated that India can find productive employment for “everyone by launching missions, like bio-diesel generation, through the jatropha plant, which can grow on dry or wasteland.”

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” proclaims an ancient Chinese precept. Our initial single step in this endeavour will be to cultivate soya bean, sunflower or the jatropha plant, extract its oil and establish a mini refinery to process bio diesel. Our time starts….now.

By Deepak Rikhye

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