Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Relying on Jatropha

One of the biggest names in Indian corporate history is throwing its weight behind a Jatropha-based future for India motor fuels. Of course it is not abandoning its highly lucrative oil business yet, but the boost the bio-diesel industry will get from this show of support will be substantial, while the bottom line of the company itself will definitely be better off from the effort.

Recently Saudi Arabia, despite being the biggest oil producer in the world, announced a major bio-diesel initiative. Of course the reason given was "waste water usage" and "greening the desert", and not merely creating fuel.

India's biggest private sector name in the oil industry, Reliance Industries is now launching a major initiative to grow jatropha at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. Though the pilot is likely to be on 200 acres of land, it should grow to thousands of acres if all goes well. Going by Reliance's track record in India, it would be a wonder if all does not go well - which is great news for the alternate fuel industry.

The initiative will be spearheaded by Reliance Life Sciences, a subsidiary of RIL, while the Bhavnagar-based Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute will provide the know-how on crop and fuel extraction technology.

* A jatropha seed contains 31 to 37 per cent extractable oil
* A plantation of 100,000 hectares of jatropha is expected to yield 250,000-300,000 tonnes of crude jatropha oil per annum
* The initial 100,000 hectare jatropha farm may yield revenues of $100 mn a year
Among other things Reliance's interest is seen as a vindication for the profitability of the bio-diesel industry.