Crop planters

BP and D1 Oils are to invest around $160m over the next five years in a 50/50 joint venture called D1-BP Fuel Crops.

The new company plans to ciltivate Jatropha curcas – a drought resistant, inedible oilseed bearing tree which does not compete with food crops for good agricultural land or adversely impact the rainforest – to make biodiesel feedstock on a large scale.

‘As Jatropha can be grown on land of lesser agricultural value with lower irrigation requirements than many plants, it is an excellent biodiesel feedstock,’ said Phil New, head of BP Biofuels.

‘D1 Oils’ progress in identifying the most productive varieties of Jatropha means that the joint venture will have access to seeds which can substantially increase Jatropha oil production per hectare,’ he added.

The joint venture will focus on Jatropha cultivation in South East Asia, Southern Africa, Central and South America and India. It is anticipated that some one million hectares will be planted over the next four years, with an estimated 300,000 hectares per year thereafter.

Jatropha oil produced from the plantations will be used to meet both local biodiesel requirements and for export to markets such as Europe, where domestic feedstock produced from rapeseed and waste oil is unlikely to be sufficient to meet anticipated regulatory led demand for biodiesel of around 11m tonnes a year from 2010.

‘Once all the planned plantations are established, the joint venture is expected to become the world’s largest commercial producer of Jatropha feedstock, producing up to 2m tonnes of Jatropha oil a year,’ concluded New.