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Jamaica looks at Castor Oil as a Biofuel

A $10.3 million research partnership agreement for a small scale biodiesel pilot project, using Jamaican oilseed bearing plants to produce fuel, was signed Friday February 11 between the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica’s Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy (PCJ’s CERE) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

The project seeks to assess the viability of producing biodiesel for the automotive industry from locally grown jatropha and castor. Six acres of the plants are to be cultivated at CARDI’s Sam Motta Demonstration Farm, Manchester, to supply the seeds. The agreement was signed at the PCJ’s Resource Centre, New Kingston.

Jatropha is an oilseed-bearing tree that grows on marginal lands in tropical and sub-tropical regions. When the seeds are crushed, the oil derived from it can be processed to produce a high-quality biodiesel fuel used in standard cars. Castor is an oilseed plant, also used as a laxative by Jamaicans, which can produce biodiesel from the castor oil.

Acting Group Managing Director at the PCJ, Nigel Logan, said he hoped the partnership will help Jamaica to forge ahead with its development of biofuels and, by extension, its energy diversification.

He said that due to the country’s dependence on oil, it must remain committed to diversifying “the energy mix”, using natural resources which are feasible and economical.

“This is the direction in which the PCJ is moving with this Research Partnership Agreement,” he explained.

The research and development phase of the project will involve the cultivation and harvesting of six varieties of the oil nuts, to determine their oil content, harvesting potential and relative productivity. The oil nuts will be cultivated on mined-out bauxite lands between April, 2011 and March, 2014.

Mr. Logan noted that if the feedstock varieties are productive, a biodiesel blend becomes a serious possibility and, with the continued support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and a framework of a (draft) biofuels policy, Jamaica should be able to introduce biodiesel to the transport sector.

He stated that Jamaica has made huge strides, in recent years, in the biofuels industry, with the successful introduction of ethanol into the fuel mix, and with E10 87 and E10 90 octane gasolines being sold at service stations.

He pointed out that biodiesel is a cleaner-burning diesel replacement fuel made from natural, renewable, agricultural resources and, like petroleum diesel, can operate in combustion-ignited engines, including cars, trucks, heavy equipment and boats. It can also be used in oil-based home heating systems.

Acting Manager at CERE, Denise Tulloch, noted that the biodiesel pilot project is in its second year of implementation. She said that the PCJ will invest 60 per cent of the funding, while and CARDI will provide the remaining 40 per cent in “kind” support. PCJ has already procured plant seeds from Brazil, India, China as well as Jamaica.

CARDI’s Entomologist, Dionne Clarke Harris, explained that the entity would be providing the six acres of land needed for the project, as well as provide technical assistance. The project is expected to run from February 2011 to January 2014.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has also provided funding support of US$50,000.

PCJ’s CERE was established on November 15, 2006 to support the implementation ideas and methods in renewable energy, in recognition of Jamaica’s abundant supply of natural resources. CARDI was established in 1975, through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), to serve the agricultural and development needs of member states.



Category/ies:Jamaica News.
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