Japanese Company Considering Chinese Biodiesel
21 Jun, 2007 11:32 am
China Confidential has learned that a Japanese company is seriously considering making a major investment in a big, vertically integrated, Chinese biodiesel project. It involves constructing a production facility and establishing large plantations for growing the oil-seed-bearing wonder crop, jatropha.
Biodiesel is the world's fastest growing alternative fuel--a replacement for petroleum-based diesel and industrial (and residential) heating oil. Biodiesel can be made by mixing any natural oil--including virgin and used vegetable oils as well as beef tallow and refined chicken fat--with methanol and a chemical agent. The basic process, which is called transesterification (and is actually a century old) thins the oil to give it the viscosity of petro-diesel or heating oil.
Unlike economically questionable (in the US and Europe) ethanol, which is made from corn, sugar cane and sugar beets, biodiesel can be used in unmodified engines and boilers.
Jatropha is a potentially prime, environmentally sound and sustainable biodiesel feedstock. The hardy plant can yield at least 400 gallons of oil per acre annually compared with only 40 gallons per acre of soy, say, or 70-80 gallons per acre of canola. Palm plantations produce more oil per acre--at least 600 gallons, according to studies--but the associated economic and environmental issues make palm oil a costlier and somewhat more problematic feedstock. In contrast with palm and other oil-seed crops, jatropha requires no irrigation and can be grown in arid wasteland. The crop prevents--and may even reverse--desertification, which increasingly threatens China and much of the developing world, including Africa (where large-scale, commercial jatropha cultivation could forever break the cycle of poverty).
After the United States, China is the world second largest oil importer and the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The country has relied on dirty--and deadly--coal-fired power plants for much of its energy needs.
Originally posted by Andre Pachter on: China Confidential