Monday, April 30, 2007

Refueling agriculture for sustainable development

Maria Jose Lina Sousa Costa Ferreira and Joao Matos de Sousa. Bioengineering and Bioprocess Unit, INETI, Estrada do Pašo do Lumiar, 22 ,1649-038 Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

Research into renewable bioresources, biofuels and oil increasing prices in the last decade are the driving forces towards an environmentally sustainable growth. Transformation of typically low value and widely available biomass feed stocks could lead to sustainable growth in developing countries and reduced dependency on energy for small countries like Portugal. This is in keeping with the EU’s Strategy for Biofuels  and the Biomass action plan which aim to promote biofuels in the EU as well as developing countries. In a cooperative project involving Portugal and Angola which has great agricultural potential, both partners stand to benefit.
 Using indigenous raw material (such as Jatropha), available technology for biofuel production (such as biodiesel) and a standard diesel electric generator it is possible debottleneck energy supply.
The feasibility of using jatropha, which is particularly suited for growth in tropical climates, for development of an integrated facility in which biofuel production is combined with the production of industrially relevant added-value products will be discussed. Jatropha is an outstanding choice of raw material because it is readily grown and has a high yield of 1590 kg oil/ha/year. This is about 2-fold higher than the value for conventional European feedstocks such as rapeseed, soybean or sunflower. Nevertheless, several technical problems, for example relating to the lability of the oil, need to be investigated before its use can become widespread.