Saturday, May 14, 2005

India Bio-diesel Update

There has been a lot of action on the bio-diesel front in India of late. Let me try and re-cap some of it:

First a couple of links from the Green Car Congress, which reports that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, has become the first head of an Indian state to start using bio-diesel to power his official car, a Tata Safari. In three months it is hoped that all government vehicles will run on bio-deisel and in ten years the state will be self-reliant in bio-diesel production. By then the state would also supply "bio-fuel to other states at Rs 20 a litre". It is not clear what percent of the biodiesel is diesel though - it could be anywhere from 0 to 98%.

The next post states that India is planning a Comprehensive National Biodiesel Policy. The aim is to start using a 20 per cent biodiesel blend (80% diesel) all over India which will result in savings of 20,000 crores, Jatropha plantation on 11 million hectares of land, 11 million jobs and 13 million tonnes of alternate fuel produced each year. Bio-diesel processing/extraction costs one third in India as compared to Europe and exports are being looked at in a big way.

Labland Biotechs is a Mysore-based company that is becoming a sort of an export oriented unit for Jatropha oil. It sources high quality tissue culture derived jatropha plants from D1 Oils, a global leader in the field of bio-diesel, and supplies them to the farmers. It will then buy the seeds from the farmers, and produce and sell the oil to D1 Oils. D1 will then refine the oil and sell it to European countries. Labland is also working on actively spreading awareness on jatropha to farmers in the region, as also to train farmers on all aspects to cultivating and maintaining the jatropha plants.

Europe has developed a deep love for jatropha and biodiesel. D1 Oils is one of the leading companies that are trying to fufill that demand. The foundation stone for India's first biodiesel plant was laid one day after the Kyoto Protocol was signed.

Getting back to the national biodiesel mission, the government has noted the lack on action on this front and is thus planning to shift responsibilities. Out of the small amount of Rs 9 crore that was assigned to the project last year, the Rural Development ministry managed to spend just Rs 20 lakhs. Now that the fund allocation has been increased to Rs 45 crores the government is mulling giving the agricultural ministry the charge on the mission.