Studies on Biodiesel Production from Local Tree Species Oil and Consequent Ecological Impact in Rural Karnataka

  • Adappa Chandrashekar Lokesh


The Government of India has planned to substitute 20% (12−15 million metric tonnes) of fossil diesel with biodiesel, produced using non-edible oils by 2017. In addition to Jatropha, more than 300 species of oil-bearing trees have been identified as biodiesel feedstock in India, of which, around 80 species inhabit Karnataka state. The key issue is
to analyse whether these biodiesel feedstock are ecologically and economically sustainable. This dissertation attempts to address this issue by carrying out a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) on viability of biodiesel production from tree borne oils in comparison to Jatropha and fossil diesel. Feedstock native to Karnataka state namely (1) Pongamia pinnata, (2) Madhuca longifolia, (3) Azadirachta indica and (4) Simarouba glauca, have been analysed in this research. The LCA studies were carried out at the Biofuel Park, in Hassan district of Karnataka State. The objectives were to (i) asses the energy input and output, green house gas emissions and impact of land use change on ecosystem quality (ii) assess the economic viability of biodiesel production and (iii) formulate strategies for sustainable biodiesel production at rural level LCA studies revealed that non-renewable energy requirement (NRER) throughout the life
cycle of Pongamia, Madhuca, Azadirachta and Simarouba systems were found to be 4 to 7 times lower than Jatropha system and 25 to 42 times lower than conventional diesel fuel system. Similarly, Net Energy Gain has been found to be highest in Madhuca, followed by Pongamia, Simarouba and Azadirachta system, which is 42 to 24 times higher than the output from Jatropha system. Global warming potential of Pongamia, Madhuca, Azadirachta and Simarouba were found to be 3 – 4 times lower than Jatropha system and 7- 8 times lower than fossil diesel system. Ecosystem structure and functional quality aspects of Pongamia, Madhuca, Azadirachta and Simarouba were found to be 2 – 4 times better than that of Jatropha system. Coventry University — M.S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies – Doctoral Programme
Economic viability studies revealed that price of biodiesel (with 20 % profit) produced from Pongamia, Madhuca, Azadirachta and Simarouba oil was found to be 6 % less than subsidised conventional diesel in Karnataka State (i.e. Rs.51.20/- per litre annual average 2012) This study revealed that Pongamia and Simarouba are ecologically and economically viable while Azadirachta and Madhuca are only ecologically viable feedstock for biodiesel production in the current economic scenario. Strategies for sustainable biodiesel production were proposed based on the outcome of the LCA studies. The structured framework evolved as a part of this research may be adopted for analysing any local biodiesel feedstock in India for sustainable biodiesel production.

This chapter highlights the important results, contributions and limitations of this research, followed by author’s perspective and suggestions for further research. In the year, 2008 Government of India had estimated that by 2017, 20% of diesel consumption must be replaced by biodiesel. To satisfy this requirement, it was estimated that more than 20 million hectares of biodiesel feedstock plantation would be required. According to government of India’s biofuel policy, only non-edible oils need to be used for biodiesel production. Hence, Jatropha has been promoted as a suitable feedstock for biodiesel production and has been planned to grow this TBO species on wastelands / marginal lands across India (Lokesh & Mahesh 2009) / (Ref. Section 1.5). However, among the total waste land available, only three categories (comprising about 17 million hectares) of land is considered to have the potential for cultivation with crops
like Jatropha (Ref. Section 1.5). Studies carried out by Tamil Nadu Agriculture University reveal that Jatropha is capable
of producing estimated yields only in irrigated land (2500 plants /​ha= 3 t seeds /​ha) than rain fed (1600 plants /​ha= 1t seeds /​ha) with average oil percentage of 25 % (Ref: Section 1.5). Jatropha was depicted as the wonder shrub that could produce biodiesel, reclaim waste land and enhance rural development without compromising food production or ecosystem services (Ref Section 1.5.1). Wasteland available in India is rain fed and if Jatropha alone is planted in the 17 million hectare of land, one can obtain an average yield of 17 MMT of seeds yielding 3.8 MMT of biodiesel, which will only suffice for one fourth of biodiesel requirement (Ref. section1.1.5.1) Coventry University — M.S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies – Doctoral Programme 188
A major portion of the wasteland available around villages is grassland and community forests, which provide commodities like fodder, fuel wood, timber and thatching material or landless and small farmers. All these commodities cannot be obtained from one variety of shrub / tree i.e. Jatropha. The promotion of Jatropha will surely have a negative
impact on villages depending on the output of community forests (Ref. Section1.5.1). In this research study, an attempt has been made to develop sustainable biodiesel production strategies based on comprehensive approach (LCA).
The outcome of this dissertation presents a broad view on the use of oil from local trees as feedstock for biodiesel production and use for electricity generation and other farming operations.