Economic Feasibility of Sustainable Non-Food Biodiesel: Castor

Economic Feasibility of Sustainable Non-Food Biodiesel: Castor

Economic Feasibility of Sustainable Non-Food Feedstock Based Biodiesel Production: Castor Bean

Biodiesel Business Academy
Global Knowledge Platform for a Sustainable Future
Building a sustainable biodiesel industry
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In a previous articles titled Economic Feasibility of Sustainable Non-Food Feedstock Based Biodiesel Production: Part 1 Part 2 and Part 3, we covered how Pongamia Pinnata, Moringa and Simarouba glauca are going to be sustainable low cost feed stock to build a profitable biodiesel industry. In this article we are going to discuss the potentiality of Castor Bean: cut carbon and fuel the future

Biofuels are becoming big policy and big business as countries around the world look to decrease petroleum dependence, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector, and support agricultural interests.  After more than a decade of healthy growth for conventional biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, the next wave of advanced biofuels is currently on the cusp of commercial scale-up. Biofuels have already helped the world achieve a tangible reduction in emissions as global CO2 emissions are forecast to rise by as much as 50 per cent over the next 25 years. Nevertheless, the world has come a long way, especially since the original Kyoto Protocol. Numerous countries have adopted mandated bio-content requirements for traffic fuels, for example. Considerable technological progress has also been made, in terms of new refining processes, new types of feedstock, and completely new energy sources. While some of these developments will be important for society two or three decades from now, the ones that call for the most attention are those that can help us start making a difference today.

Making more of a difference today

Biofuels offer the most direct route available today for reducing traffic-related emissions of CO2 and are already widely available. The future success of the biofuels industry will depend on a number of factors and learning experiences. No easy challenge, it must be admitted, but a necessary one all the same.

The number one priority is that the raw materials required to produce biofuels are likely to remain more expensive than crude oil for the foreseeable future. Without this, industry will be unable – and ultimately unwilling – to make the type of investments needed, not only in capacity based on the best existing technology but also in new conversion technologies that can make use of a broad range of globally available feedstock..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 feedstocks;
  • 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 Castor Bean   that can grow well under a wide range of hostile ecological conditions, offers a great hope.

Castor bean, an annual oil crop, produces a seed that contains approximately 50 percent oil. The oil is of a high quality and there is a growing market for it among biodiesel manufacturers. The oil also has wide ranging applications in the industrial bio-chemical sector.

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 programme at Center for Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel (CJP) focuses on the 17 primary non-food sources of biodiesels —out of which seven namely Jatropha, Jojoba, Castor, Pongamia, Moringa, Castor Bean and Microalgae have been tried, tested that adequate amount 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 feedstock’s 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.

About the Plant

Castor (Ricinus communis L.) is cultivated around the world because of the commercial importance of its oil. India is the world’s largest producer of castor seed and meets most of the global demand for castor oil. India produces around 1 million tonnes of castor seed annually, and accounting for more than 60% of the entire global production.

Because of its unlimited industrial applications, castor oil enjoys tremendous demand world‐wide. The current consumption of Castor Oil and its derivatives in the domestic market is estimated at about 300,000 tonnes. India is also the biggest exporter of castor oil and its derivatives at 87% share of the international trade in this commodity.

Castor is an important non‐edible oilseed crop and is grown especially in arid and semi arid region. It is originated in the tropical belt of both India and Africa. It is cultivated in different countries on commercial scale, of which India, China and Brazil is major castor growing countries accounting for 90 per cent of the worldʹs production. Historically, Brazil, China and India have been the key producing countries meeting global requirements. However, in early 90’s, Brazilian farmers moved away to more lucrative cash crops, and surge in domestic demand in China made them net importers, leaving India to meet the global demand.

Cultivation Pattern

Castor crop needs a tropical type of climate to develop. That’s why the castor is largely found in the countries lying in the tropical belt of the world.


Castor Oil’s application range is very widethe uses range from cosmetics, paints, synthetic resins & varnishes, to the areas of national security involving engineering plastics, jet engine lubricants and polymers for electronics and telecommunications.

Castor is a versatile, renewable resource having vast and varied applications such as lubricating grease, surfactants, surface coatings, telecom, engineering plastics, pharma, rubber chemicals, nylons, etc.

Castor oil and its derivatives find major application in soaps, lubricants, grease, hydraulic brake fluids and polymers and perfumery products.

The primary use of castor oil is as a basic ingredient in the production of nylon 11, jet engine lubricants, nylon 6‐10, heavy duty automotive greases, coatings and inks, surfactants, polyurethanes, soaps, polishes, flypapers, lubricants, and many other chemical derivatives and medicinal, pharmaceutical and cosmetic derivatives.

The seeds and residual cake are highly poisonous and unless processed to remove the poisons cannot be fed to livestock. In some countries the cake is used as a fertilizer. Poisons contained in the cake include ricin.

Castor is a plant that is commercially very important to the world. Castor seed oil cake is very useful manure to crops. Castor Cake is an excellent fertilizer because of high content of N (6.4%), Phosphoric Acid (2.55%) and Potash (1%) and moisture retention.which is suitable for cultivation of Paddy, Wheat, Maize and Sugarcane.

Castor Oil

Castor oil is obtained by pressing the seeds, followed by solvent extraction of the pressed cake. Castor Oil is one of the world’s most useful and economically important natural plant oils. India supplies 70% of the world’s requirements of castor oil. This oil is unique among vegetable oils and uniqueness is derives from the presence of a hydroxyl fatty acid known as ricinoleic acid (12‐ hydroxyl‐cis‐9‐octadecenoic acid) which constitute around 90% of the total fatty acids of the oil. Castor Oil is also distinguished from other vegetable oils by its high specific gravity, thickness and hydroxyl value.Castor oil is used either in its crude form, or in the refined hydrogenated form. Typically, 65% of it is processed. About 28% is refined, 12% is hydrogenated, 20% is dehydrated, and the balance 5% is processed to manufacture other derivatives. The major derivatives of Castor oil used in the industry– hydrogenated castor oil (HCO), Dehydrated castor oil (DCO), Sebacic acid etc.

Carbon Credit

The castor Plants act as sinks for carbon dioxide as Castor bean plants capture around 10 tons of carbon dioxide for every hectare (2.471 acres) planted and, hence, the Ricinus communis plantation will reduce the amount of this greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere. Given the widespread presence and ease of cultivation of the Castor Bean oil plant it could be cultivated in conjunction with subsistence agriculture programs as a potential oilseed feedstock for biodiesel.

Food v Fuel & Castor Bean

As per a recent report of World Bank, the 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 such 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 Castor Bean seed oil has good nutritional profile and other physico-chemical properties which got improved after the process of refining; therefore it can be used as a potential oil seed resource for edible purpose and bio-fuel production.

Castor Bean as a source of biodiesel

The Ricinus communis biodiesel meets all the three criteria any environmentally sustainable fuel must meet. These are social, technical and commercial. The seeds from the Ricinus communis Plant contain in excess of 45% oil. Castor seed oil is being used widely for various purposes. It is used as a lubricant in high-speed engines and aero planes, in the manufacture of soaps, transparent paper, printing-inks, varnishes, linoleum and plasticizers. It is also used for medicinal and lighting purposes. The cake is used as manure and plant stalks as fuel or as thatching material or for preparing paper-pulp. In the silk-producing areas, leaves are fed to the silkworms. Now the main use of the oil will be as bio fuel and for the production of biodiesel. This oil has an ash content of about 0.02% and the percentage of sulfur is less than 0.04%.The higher the cetane number (CN), the better the fuel will be when used as a diesel. The CN of the majority of biodiesel fuels is actually higher than petrol or diesel, and the cetane number of castor oil biodiesel is in a good range for diesel engines. The castor biodiesel has very interesting properties (very low cloud and pour points) that show that this fuel is very suitable for using in extreme winter temperatures. The project has many other positive economic, social and environmental impacts: There are income generation opportunities that result from the project like the provision of goods and services to the cultivation and its workers  

Yield Estimates: Castor Bean

Yield is a function of light, water, nutrients and the age of the Plant. Good planning, quality planting material, standardized agronomy practices and good crop management may handsomely increase the yields. Ricinus communis will yield at Maturity as high as +1000 kl oil with proper nutrition, and irrigation. This is truly an exceptional amount of oil from an agricultural crop

ILUC discussion and Castor Bean
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 Castor Bean does not cause land use change.  It is an annual crop and grown in arid and semi arid regions

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 sustainable manner and without compromising food security.

Economics: Cost & benefit ratio

Castor farming is being developed by CJP in conjunction with Pongamia Pinnata and Indian mustard, and has shown to be a heartier and higher yielding variety as companion crop. Being a companion crop, castor bean can give the grower the ability to double crop and earn more — it’s like adding a second shift to the factory of agriculture. The double oil crop adds to the farmer’s income, creates jobs in the crushing operations, and the oil derived from the seed will help decrease foreign oil dependency. It’s a very attractive proposition for all stakeholders involved. Vast scope exists for exploitation of castor as a bioenergy crop although there are still some technological challenges to overcome. A combination of conventional breeding methods with biotechnological techniques provides newer routes for designing oils for biofuel purpose.Non-food castor will produce enough oil in the double-crop environment with Pongamia, simarouba or Indian mustard. The Castor Bean Biodiesel can be produced less than US$ 39 per barrel, detailed economics are here.

Estimates of yields, prices and cost vary greatly, making it difficult for potential growers to make informed investment decisions about growing the crop. We identify the key elements in growing castor and examine their effects. We also provide accurate information about the crop for potential castor investors and growers after performing feasibility studies. 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 to the real world of nonfood biodiesel crops and business. Attendees shall also have the opportunity to explore castor crop science, agronomy and its cultivation technology etc. as these have also been included in the course. To find out more about JATROPHAWORLD 2013 please visit

As seats are limited in 6th Global Jatropha World 2013, register now. One can contact Coordinator Programme on M +91 9829423333 or mail to sign up for the event early and secure your place without delay
The next issue Part 5 shall be focused on “Jojoba: Diesel from Desert Shrub”

Director (Training) 
Biodiesel Business Academy
T +91 141 2335839
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M- +91 982943333,


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