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Indian biofuel efforts falter

  |   April 27, 2010 at 3:13 PM
NEW DELHI, April 27 (UPI) -- Indian efforts to cultivate jatropha as an alternative biofuel have stalled.

The Business Standard reported Tuesday that the Indian government had hoped that jatropha could replace one-fifth of India's diesel consumption by next year. The government consequently identified 98 million acres of available land where jatropha could be cultivated.

Jatropha has long been promoted as a promising biofuel substitute to ease the global energy crisis. One hectare is capable of yielding 390-456 gallons of jatropha oil, equivalent to 433.7 gallons of diesel.

Many Indian companies, including Reliance Industries, the Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, entered the field, making substantial investments in jatropha and solvent extraction plants to produce biodiesel.

Jatropha's growing conditions proved to be more complex than originally thought. Jatropha requires close care. Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency analyst Preeti Kaur noted that while initially specialists assumed that jatropha could flourish on wasteland, without irrigation it in fact requires moderate irrigation. As a result, nationwide investments in jatropha of more than $5 billion are at risk.

Kaur added, "The plans have almost failed and our investments are stuck due to the poor quality of jatropha seeds. Other than this, small land holdings are a major reason for the failure of jatropha plantations."

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