Nuts-algae mix, the new bio-fuel in the coming decade
Jatropha nuts, native to Central America and transported to Africa and Asia by Portuguese sailors on their voyages round the world, seems to be the most promising plant source for bio-diesel oil.
Continental Airlines has been the first American airline to test this fuel successfully and JetBlue Airways has partnered with Airbus to test the algae-jatropha jet fuel by the end of the year.
The future of flight could be nourished easily on a diet of smashed nuts and refined algae if start-up ventures using bio-fuels prove their worth in the coming decade.
During a two-hour test flight last week, Continental Airlines became the first American carrier to prove that takeoff could be achieved by mixing traditional jet fuel with fuel from algae and jatropha nuts. A number of foreign airlines already have tested similar mixes in their jets.
Air New Zealand expects 10 per cent of its fuel - enough to run the entire domestic fleet - to come from a nut grown in India and Africa within five years.
The national carrier has announced it will use oil from jatropha nuts to fuel a test flight this year - the first of its kind using a sustainable biofuel with commercial potential. By 2013 it says the fuel will provide it with one million barrels a year.
Biodiesel derived from Jatropha nut kernels has properties similar to those of biofuels obtained from oilseed rapes. It is also characterized by a positive CO2 balance and can thus contribute to protecting the climate. In this project, the companies are seeking to develop production and quality standards for Jatropha-based biofuel. ADM is running several biodiesel refineries worldwide. Bayer CropScience plans to develop and register herbicides, soil insecticides and fungicides for disease and pest control of Jatropha plants. At the end of last year, Daimler AG completed a wide-ranging five-year research project which demonstrated that Jatropha can be used and cultivated to obtain high-quality biodiesel and studied the use of this fuel in test vehicles. The company will continue to explore the interactions between fuel and engine in vehicles powered by Jatropha biodiesel and mixtures of this and other fuels.