Economic Feasibility of Non-Food Biodiesel Production: Part 3

Economic Feasibility of Non-Food Biodiesel Production: Part 3

In a previous articles titled “Economic Feasibility of Sustainable Non-Food Feedstock Based Biodiesel Production: Part 1 and Part 2 “,we have covered how Pongamia Pinnata and Moringa oleifera are going to be sustainable low cost feed stock to build a profitable biodiesel industry. In this article we are going to discuss the potential of: Simarouba: a multipurpose biofuel tree.

The world is facing incredibly serious natural resource and environmental challenges: Climate change, fresh water depletion, ocean over-fishing, deforestation, and air and water pollution, the struggle to feed a planet of billions. All of these challenges are exacerbated by ever rising demand -– over the next 40 years estimates are that demand for fresh water will rise 50%, demand for food will rise 70%, and demand for energy will nearly double –- all in the same period that we need to tackle climate change, depletion of rivers and aquifers, and deforestation. Due to ever diminishing sources of fats and oils, there is the growing need for the search of new sources of oil as well as exploiting sources that are currently unexploited in order to supplement the existing ones. The degree to which the promotion of biofuels enters into competition with food production, raising questions of food security, depends on a variety of factors: 

  • Choice of feedstock; 
  • Natural resources involved (especially land and water); 
  • Relative efficiencies (yields, costs, GHG emissions) of different feedstock; 
  • Processing technologies adopted.

Concern over competition between biofuels and food production has been particularly acute given the overwhelming use of food and feed crops for both ethanol and biodiesel. Several measures are suggested for mitigating this problem. Among them, recommending a low cost input technology for cultivating hardy perennial crops that can grow well even with erratic and low rainfall, still giving assured returns is of great significance. In this context, cultivation of Simarouba glaucaDC.Paradise tree, Lakshmi taru, aceituno, a multipurpose tree that can grow well under a wide range of hostile ecological conditions, offers a great hope. Simarouba glauca a very rapid growing tree found growing in a varying range of climatic condition is a promising tree and has the potential to become a new source of oil.

As part of our quest to develop and market sustainable biofuels that have a minimal impact on food supplies and can help us make tangible reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we’re investing in a number of promising research projects. Research and development programmes at CJP have focused on the 17 primary non-food sources of biodiesels —out of which seven namely Jatropha, Jojoba, Castor, Pongamia, Moringa, Simarouba and Microalgae have been tried, tested that adequate amounts of each type of feedstock that could be sustainably produced and utilized across the globe without compromising the fertility of agricultural soils, displacing land needed to grow our food, or threatening the health of our farms and forests. Future biodiesel production should be sourced from crop feedstocks such as moringa, pongamia and castor that can be grown on marginal land. This will ensure establishment of a sustainable biodiesel industry that will not compete for land and other resources with the rest of the agricultural sector that produces food and fibre. In addition, sustainable biodiesel production will rely significantly on the capacity to run economically viable and profitable operations that will be resilient to fluctuations in fossil and non-fossil fuel prices, and government policies in relation to renewable energy and carbon emission reductions. Biofuel policies have been successful in developing an economic sector and a market. There are now more than 60 countries that have developed biofuel policies. Given the increasing price of fossil fuels and more efficient production, biofuels, or at least some of them, will be competitive even without public support. Increasingly it will be the market rather than policies that will drive the development of the sector.

Simarouba glauca is an important tree species growing in the forests of Central and South America. Considering Simarouba glauca’s potential as an oilseed feedstock for biodiesel CJP has the honor of establishing this untapped resource as alternative source for the biodiesel industry of the future. It is wise to cultivate versatile oilseed bearing trees like Lakshmi tharu (Simarouba) with high productivity to meet the edible, industrial and biofuel oil needs of the world, as renewable source, for long term gains. Its cultivation in marginal/ wastelands generates employment to thousands of farmers, artisans, carpenters, pharmacists and others at village level For this an integrated approach has to be developed involving scientists, growers, industrialists and policy makers

  • Botanical Name :Simarouba glauca
  • Common Name : Simarouba
  • Family : Simaroubaceae
  • Distribution: Central America, Kenya, Burundi, India
  • Plant type : Tree grows up to 15 m height with tap root system and Cylindrical system
  • Seed oil % : 60
  • Seed storage Behavior: Intermediate

Simarouba is multi-utility in that all its parts are useful in one way or the other. Each well grown tree yields 15-30 kg nut lets per year that yields 2.5-5 kg of oil. All the parts of Simarouba are useful in some way or the other. However, in our present context, the seeds are the most important part as they contain 60-75% oil (nieve) which is edible, which can be used in the manufacture of vegetable fat (Vanaspati) and/or margarine. As an industrial oil, it is well suited for the manufacture of quality soaps, lubricants, paints, polishes, pharmaceuticals etc.

Simarouba glauca has a long history in herbal medicine in many countries. Simarouba glauca is an important herbal drug used against dysentery, hence its bark is also known as dysentery bark. The bark and leaf extract of Simarouba is well known for its different types of pharmacological properties such as haemostatic, antihelmenthic, and antiparasitic, antidysentric, antipyretic and anticancerous. The bark is used to cure fever, malaria, stomach and bowel disorders, haemorrhages, ameobiasis as well as leaf, fruit pulp and seeds are possessing medicinal properties such as analgesic, antimicrobial, antiviral, astringent emmenagogue, stomachic tonic and vermifuse. The crushed seeds are used as antidote against snake bites.

The fruit pulp contributes about 60% of the fresh fruit let by weight. It is rich in sugar (up to 11-12 %) and is well suited for fermentation or beverage industry. The pulp can be used in preparation of squash and jam. The fruits can also be a source of natural colorants.

Scientific studies reported that the seeds contain 40% kernels and the kernels contain 60% fat, which is edible. Oil can be easily refined, bleached, deodorized and fractionated. The fat has good potential for blending with vanaspati or for use as cocoa butter (CB). Oil is also used in industrial manufacture of soap, lubricant, paint, polishes and pharmaceuticals, etc. After oil extraction, the left over Simarouba meal is reported to have high nutritional indice and digestibility which can be used in the production of food supplements to broilers, fish etc.

The seed shells can be used in activated charcoal industry and particleboard industry. They can also be used as briquettes to heat boilers thereby generating thermal energy.

The wood is useful in making light furniture, toys; packing material, pulp for paper industry and match boxes. Waste wood can be used to generate biogas.

The press cake is rich in nitrogen (7.7 - 8.1%), phosphorus (1.07%) and potash (1.24%). There are also traces of calcium, magnesium, and sodium. It is valuable organic manure. Leaf litter (20-40 kg / tree / year) makes good manure, improving the fertility status of the soil. As earthworms relish it very much, it can be valuable in the manufacture of vermicompost. The addition of leaf litter also increases the organic carbon content of the soil.

Carbon Credit
Another goal pursued by the production of biofuels is a reduction in the emission of GHGs. Many studies have been published calculating the potentials of different biofuel pathways in reducing GHG emissions relative to fossil fuels using life-cycle analysis (LCA) techniques. LCA of biodiesel produced from Simarouba showed that the greenhouse gases emissions were reduced by 96 per cent when compared to petroleum diesel. Given the widespread presence and ease of cultivation of the Simarouba oil plant it could be cultivated in conjunction with subsistence agriculture programs as a potential oilseed feedstock for biodiesel.

Food v Fuel & Simarouba
As per a recent report released by the World Bank, rising crude oil prices are the biggest contributor to rising food prices. In the production and distribution of food, oil is used in everything from fertilizer production to powering farm equipment and transporting the food to consumers. In this context the World Bank report suggests that to stem rising food prices, the widespread famine inflicted on the world’s poorest countries, and the economic hardship exacted on the poor and working-class within the developed world, we must control oil prices.

Further, the study carried out at CJP reveals that Simarouba glauca seed oil has good nutritional profile and other physico-chemical properties which improved after the process of refining; therefore it can be used as a potential oil seed resource for food production purposes and bio-fuel production.

Simarouba as a source of biodiesel
Simarouba glauca is arousing great enthusiasm as an interesting plant source for biodiesel production. The oil content of Simarouba kernel is greater as compared to oil content of usual biodiesel crops like Pongamia Jatropha and Neem. an evergreen tropical tree bearing oilseeds, can meet edible, industrial and bio-fuel needs of the world as a renewable source

Yield Estimates: Simarouba oleifera
Approximate Yield/hectare
optimal yield 7th year
Seed yield 8.5 tons
Oil (60%) ton 5 ton
Biodiesel ton 5 ton

ILUC discussion and Simarouba
The ILUC effect has become a controversial issue in international debates but also in some national debates. Many studies have shown there is enough land available to produce more food, more feed and more biofuels. According to FAO using the GAEZ classification of land types, there is a gross balance of 3.2 billion ha of prime and good land not used for growing crops, leaving a net balance of 1.4 billion ha, after subtracting built-up areas, forests and protected areas. Though the discussion of indirect land use change (ILUC) caused by biofuels is not scientifically supported, the Simarouba does not cause land use change. Contrary to it, Simarouba is targeted for marginal lands which are unproductive. Most importantly it is a food crop while yielding biodiesel- a perfect answer to the unscientific discussion

The paradise tree also improves soil health. It is used as soil and watershed conservation also attracts more rain and helps to control soil erosion. The tree acts as wind breaker and forms a well developed root system and dense evergreen canopy that efficiently checks soil erosion supports soil microbial life and improves groundwater position. Besides converting solar energy into biochemical energy all round the year, it checks overheating of soil surface all through the year and particularly during summer. Large scale planting in wastelands facilitates wasteland reclamation, converts the accumulated atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen and contributes to the reduction of global warming.

Biodiesel can make a large contribution to the world’s future energy requirements; this is a resource we cannot ignore. The challenge is to harness it on an environmentally and economically viable manner and without compromising food security.

Economics: Cost & benefit ratio
Using Simarouba tree for biodiesel production and then utilizing the waste for further oil extraction is sustainable taking into account its various dimensions and recognizing and integrating all the potential impacts. Using the current proven state of art agronomy, enhanced cultivator and technologies developed by CJP, the biodiesel from Simarouba would be economically viable. The Simarouba Biodiesel can be produced for less than US$47 per barrel without taking into account by-products revenue. If we credit the revenue from by-products like press cake, glycerin, leaves etc. biodiesel can be produced at US$29 per barrel. Detailed economics are here:

BBA’s Next 6th 5 day Global Jatropha Hi-tech Integrated Nonfood Biodiesel Farming & Technology Training Programme in India from September 23-27, 2013 is all set to introduce you the real world of nonfood biodiesel where the attendees shall also have the opportunity to interact with simarouba, which offers a possible solution for sustainable biofuel production: Agronomy, Horticulture, Biology, Engineering, Marketing and Financial aspects of Simarouba commercialization and its cultivation technology etc. as have also been included in the course.
As seats are limited in 6th Global Jatropha World 2013, register now. One can contact Coordinator Programme on M +91 9829423333 or email to sign up for the event early and secure your place without delay.

The next issue Part 4 shall be focused on “CASTOR BEAN – Ready to Fuel the Future

Director (Training)
Biodiesel Business Academy
T +91 141 2335839
F: +91 141 2335968
M- +91 982943333


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