Economic Feasibility of Non-Food Feedstock Based Biodiesel Part 2

Economic Feasibility of Non-Food Feedstock Based Biodiesel Part 2

In a previous article titled Economic Feasibility of Sustainable Non-Food Feedstock Based Biodiesel Production: Part 1, we have covered how Pongamia Pinnata is 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 Moringa oleifera: A multidimensional Perennial Biodiesel Tree.

To date, food crops (corn, sugar, and vegetable oil) have been the primary source of biodiesels for transportation, but increased use of these fuels has created more problems than solutions: rising food prices and food price volatility, and accelerated expansion of agriculture in the tropics. This CJP analysis focuses 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 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 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.

Highly valued by the ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations, the Moringa tree is now being “rediscovered” in many areas of the globe. A combination of low yielding Moringa varieties, the absence of effective crop management, and high plant mortality during the planting phase, contributes to sub-optimal yields. Moringa investors and crop research institutes are continuously studying modern high-yielding varieties developed by breeding programs, under ideal climatic conditions in Africa, Asia, and America etc. Experts at Center for Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel (CJP) are pursuing the unique suitability of all parts of the plant for a wide range of practical purposes ranging from agricultural to medicinal to fuel. Scientists at CJP have been gearing up for research and development activities to reap its fullest potential since last decade. With years of continuing research, experiments and trials has provided an adage to find and develop sustainable second-generation biodiesel feedstock with low cost input technology. In the search for more environmentally friendly fuels, the use of Moringa oil as “Biodiesel” has proven to have technical and ecological benefits, and stands as an opportunity for agricultural development in arid and impoverished areas throughout the tropics and sub tropics globally. Besides reducing life-cycle emissions because of its high oil content (40%), relatively high crop yield and no competition with food crops.

The Moringa tree is native to India and grown in tropical and subtropical regions across Asia, Africa and South America. It is also grown as an ornamental tree in the southern United States.


Moringa oleifera has been used for such a wide variety of purposes that it has been described as a ‘miracle tree’. It is grown in India as a vegetable tree, with the roots, leaves, flowers and fruit all being used for food. The leaves are the most widely used part, being compared to spinach in appearance and nutritional quality. Because Moringa oleifera produces leaves during the dry season and during drought, it is seen as a particularly useful green vegetable in developing countries when little other food is available. Its leaves and pods have considerable nutritional value, yielding many vitamins and minerals, and the leaves can be eaten either cooked or dried.

However, the seeds are the most useful part of the plant. The oil that is extracted from them, which is sometimes known as “ben oil”, is used for a wide variety of purposes. They also contain a powerful flocculant, which is used for clarifying turbid water in developing countries.

The seeds contain about 35–40% oil. This oil is of excellent quality, similar to olive oil, and is slow to become rancid. It is used as a fuel for cooking purposes and burnt for light in developing countries. It is also used in perfumes, as a lubricant in watches and other fine machinery, and for making soap.

The press-cake remaining after oil extraction has been shown to retain the active ingredients for coagulation, making it a marketable commodity as a flocculent. It can be used as a quick and simple method for cleaning dirty river water in developing countries. In fact, Moringa oleifera has been compared to alum in its effectiveness at removing suspended solids from turbid water. It can also be used to harvest algae from waste water, currently an expensive process using centrifuges. The press-cake also contains high levels of protein and makes and excellent stockfeed or a good fertilizer for use in agriculture.

Carbon Credit

Life cycle analysis of biodiesel produced from Moringa showed that the greenhouse gases emissions were reduced by 90 per cent when compared to petroleum diesel. Given the widespread presence and ease of cultivation of the Moringa oil plant it could be cultivated in conjunction with subsistence agriculture programs as a potential oilseed feedstock for biodiesel.

Food v Fuel & Moringa

Globally, about 870 million people do not have enough to eat, and more than two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency, according to United Nations (UN) food agencies.The Moringa tree is increasingly considered as one of the world’s most valuable natural resources, as the main constituents of the tree have several nutritive ingredients. Its leaves, pods and flowers are considered good sources of vitamins A, B, B2, B3, B6 and C, folic acid, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and amino acids.  More importantly, its leaves are highly nutritious; being a significant source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein, iron and potassium Arial. Moringa oleifera is an essential plant in meeting global food security and sustain the livelihoods of many millions of people.

Nanotechnology & Moringa

Nutrient-rich Moringa foods could play an important role in efforts to provide healthy diets for people around the world. Moringa could help ensure food security for people who are currently malnourished - a number that continues to increase despite international efforts, the bio-reduction of aqueous Ag+ ions by the plant extract of the Moringa oleifera leaf extract has been demonstrated. It can be also good source for synthesis of silver nanoparticles. This green chemistry approach towards the synthesis of silver nanoparticles has many advantages such as, ease with which the process can be scaled up, economic viability, etc. Applications of such eco-friendly nanoparticles in bactericidal, wound healing and other medical and electronic applications, makes this method potentially exciting for the large-scale synthesis of other inorganic materials (nanomaterials).

Moringa as a source of biodiesel 

The oil from the Moringa tree is a more sustainable biodiesel feedstock as it can yield both food and fuel. Among those searching for solutions to feed the hungry, Moringa is well known. Malnourished children flourish with the introduction of the nutritious Moringa leaf crop, which provides protein, vitamins and minerals in their diets. The greatest potential for this species is currently thought to be in its cultivation for the production of biodiesel. Yields of about 20 metric tonnes of pods per hectare per year are achievable for this species. This would equate to between 3000 and 4000 liters of biodiesel per hectare per annum. It is particularly desirable because it is a very low water-use crop and may be cultivated on marginal land commercially.

Yield Estimates: Moringa oleifera
Approximate Yield/hectare

Optimal yield  1st year
Seed yield  9 tons
Oil (36% ) ton  3.2 ton
Biodiesel ton 3.2 ton

ILUC discussion and Moringa

Many studies have shown there is enough land available to produce more food, more feed and more biofuels. Though the discussion of indirect land use change (ILUC) caused by biofuels is not scientifically supported, the Moringa does not cause land use change. Contrary to it, Moringa is targeted for marginal lands which are unproductive. Most importantly it is food crop and at the same time it yields biodiesel- a perfect answer to the unscientific discussion.

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 in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner and without compromising food security.

Economics: Cost & benefit ratio

By using Moringa tree for biodiesel production and then utilizing the waste for further oil extraction. Using current proven sate of art agronomy, enhanced cultivator and technologies developed by CJP, the biodiesel from Moringa would be economically viable. The Moringa Biodiesel can be produced less than US$ 40 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 no cost (see detailed economics).

CJP’s knowledge arm BBA has identified the factors limiting the adoption and use of the Moringa Tree for Agricultural Development for Producing Biodiesel. Second International workshop on Moringa for Food and Fuel Security in Jaipur on 21-22 November 2013 will explore the important role Moringa play in the lives of rural people and the global economy discussing advancement of existing and future agricultural development projects. CJP’s experience, expertise, and views about Moringa and its use for agriculture development for the purposes of reducing hunger and poverty shall be highlighted in the 2nd Global Moringa Meet 2013. Aiming for the promotion of international exchange and cooperation in above mentioned fields the 2nd 2 day Global Moringa Meet (GMM 12) on November 25 & 26, 2013 shall provide new insight in the potentiality of this crop for future exploitation and formulate strategies for developing moringa failsafe farms and also helps new growers to have holistic information on moringa crop.

Also 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 Moringa which offers a possible solution for sustainable biofuel production: Agronomy, Horticulture, Biology, Engineering, Marketing and Financial aspects of Moringa commercialization and its cultivation technology etc. as have also been included in the course.

As seats are limited in 2nd Global moringa meet 2013 and 6th Jatrophaworld 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 3 shall be focused on Simarouba: a multipurpose biofuel tree

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

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