RDSO/Lucknow clear Jatropha Bio-diesel Technology for field trials in Railways

Bhavnagar / Lucknow:  Research Design Standard Organisation (RDSO), the research wing of Indian Railways, has cleared Jatropha Bio-diesel developed by India’s prestigious CSIR Laboratory M/s Central Salt Marine & Chemical Research Institute, Bhavnagar – a CSIR Laboratory, for field trials in Locomotives.

“RDSO has cleared Jatropha bio-diesel of CSMCRI for field trials in locomotives. A few more approvals are required and possibly in next 3-4 months we shall commence the trials on two locomotives in Jetalsar,” a Western Railway official said.

“During initial trials it would be 10 per cent bio-diesel and 90 per cent conventional diesel, but as we progress the bio-diesel content will be scaled up,” he said.

Railways use diesel-run locomotives on several routes where electric lines are yet to be laid. Jetalsar (Rajkot district) to Dhasa (Amreli district) is one such line.

“Laboratory tests have been conducted to test locomotives on B-100 bio-diesel (neat bio-diesel), but there are some issues with it. Hopefully once resolved, we aim to run the locomotives on hundred per cent bio-diesel,” the official said.

CSMCRI Director Dr Pushpito Ghosh said, “Yes, our bio-diesel has been cleared for field trials by the RDSO.

“Jatropha biodiesel can be produced for between Rs 45-65 per litre assuming all-inclusive dry fruit cost of Rs.8000 per tonne,” an institute official said.

Earlier, the institute’s US patented technology to extract bio-diesel from Jatropha was successfully adopted by Vehicle Research Development Establishment, a defence laboratory in Ahmednagar to run a few vehicles on this environment-friendly fuel.

Indian Railways has chalked out plans to commercially develop surplus railway land through the newly set up Railway Land Development Authority. This is part of the aggressive marketing practices being adopted by the Indian Railways to augment income, for providing greater passenger amenities and safer travel.  It is also working on a plan to utilise the arid and semi-arid surplus land belonging to the organisation outside the station areas for planting of jatropha trees for generating bio-diesel for captive consumption. Railways, now, annually spends more than Rs.4000 crore on their diesel requirements, and after the recent hikes in prices of diesel, have started to think of alternative fuels to reduce this cost burden.

All about Jatropha

Jatropha is a genus of flowering plants in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. The name is derived from the Greek words ἰατρός (iatros), meaning “physician,” and τροφή (trophe), meaning “nutrition,” hence the common name physic nut. It contains approximately 170 species of succulent plants, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas). Most of these are native to the Americas, with 66 species found in the Old World. Mature plants produce separate male and female flowers. As with many members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha contains compounds that are highly toxic.

In 2007 Goldman Sachs cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. It is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil, averaging 34.4%. The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production. However, despite their abundance and use as oil and reclamation plants, none of the Jatropha species have been properly domesticated and, as a result, their productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of their large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown. Igbinosa and colleagues (2009) demonstrated potential broad spectrum antimicrobial activity of J.Curcas.

Uses

The stems of haat (Jatropha cuneata) are used for basketmaking by the Seri people in Sonora, Mexico. The stems are roasted, split and soaked through an elaborate process. The reddish dye that is often used is made from the root of another plant species, Krameria grayi. Spicy jatropha (J. integerrima) is cultivated as an ornamental in the tropics for its continuously blooming crimson flowers. Buddha belly plant (J. podagrica) was used to tan leather and produce a red dye in Mexico and the southwestern United States. It is also used as a house plant.

The oil from Jatropha curcas is mainly converted into biodiesel for use in diesel engines. The cake can be used for fish or animal feed (if detoxified), biomass feedstock to power electricity plants, or as biogas or high-quality organic fertilizer. It can also be used as a bio-pesticide and for medicinal purposes.

Furthermore, it has been found that Jatropha curcas, can be planted in arid and hot regions such as the desert areas of Egypt, India, and Madagascar, and contribute the a reduction of up to 25t of CO2 per hectare per year from the atmosphere (over a 20 yr period), while still producing bio fuel and also the dry cakes from the oil extraction. Currently, research plantations are being planted to test the results and see the viability of this.

Toxicity

Much like other members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha plants contain several toxic compounds, including lectin, saponin, carcinogenic phorbol, and a trypsin inhibitor. The seeds of this genus are also a source of the highly poisonous toxalbumin curcin. Despite this, the seeds are occasionally eaten after roasting, which reduces some of the toxicity. Its sap is a skin irritant, and ingesting as few as three untreated seeds can be fatal to humans. In 2005 Western Australia banned Jatropha gossypiifolia as invasive and highly toxic to people and animals.

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