Jatropha and Other Biofuel Projects Show Promise in Florida

Doreen Hemlock and Jaideep Hardikar of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published an interesting report over the weekend about biofuel projects in South Florida, and in particular, the potential jatropha has in the area.

The neatly planted rows of jatropha trees in Delray Beach are sprouting round, green fruit that can be crushed into oil to run diesel engines.

Teri Gevinson founder of Ag-Oil LLC, foresees a day when South Florida farms like hers grow 10,000 acres of jatropha, enough to make 15 million gallons a year of oil.

But like many biofuels projects, her dream depends on obtaining millions of dollars for a state-of-the-art processing plant ¡V money hard to find in the current credit crunch.

Gov. Charlie Crist and President Barack Obama both tout renewable energy ¡V including biofuels ¡V as vital to stem U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, reduce carbon emissions and create “green” jobs.

Yet scores of promising projects remain in early stages and face uncertain futures, experts say, unless the government, venture capitalists and others loosen purse strings soon.

“Renewable energy should be leading the way out of this recession, but it’s not ¡V because investors are not investing,” said Sean O’Hanlon, who runs the Miami-based trade group American Biofuels Council.

Adds Jim Lane, editor of Miami-based BiofuelsDigest.com: “There’s always been a gulf between obtaining venture capital and project finance. Now, it’s an ocean.”

Gevinson, a 38-year-old Boca Raton real estate developer, started her 40-acre jatropha test farm in January on her own land, investing about $200,000 so far.

Struggling vegetable farmers had given up a lease on the property, unable to make ends meet.

This spring, she earned a $2.5 million Florida grant that she hopes to use for equipment to harvest and crush jatropha. She also is seeking $25 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, mainly for a processing plant that would use the latest algae technology to boost jatropha oil yields and make the project profitable long-term.

The Energy Department is offering more than $700 million in stimulus funds for biofuels, but so far, approvals have been slow. That’s partly because the Department has too few staff to study the complex deals, pick viable ones and divvy up funds, said Dennis Dolan Crook, a Fort Lauderdale-based executive with biofuels firm Interex Global.

More from this article can be found here.

Categorized | Energy & Fuels
One Response to “Jatropha and Other Biofuel Projects Show Promise in Florida”
  1. Agrafuels says:

    Jatropha is struggling all over the world with over expectations. Non farmers entering into farming on over infalted crop yields boasted all over the internet. Then there are the less than fortunate 3rd world farmers planting Jatropha in poor soil qualities, and little precipitation to support a yield worth harvesting. The answer is the appropriate species for the approriate climatic, and soil conditions. There are now several South American Countries not accepting Jatropha as a biofuel crop. So Far Jatropha has failed throughout Florida with the plants freezing and killing 800,000 plants near Tampa, and other small attempts near lake Okeechobee that have died over winter. The rubber meets the road where the hoopla stops. The media is just hype, it takes sound planning and actual field trials of the species before with respect to jatropha as there are in excess of 400 species of it. The algae hype is another, currently no one has demonstrated a commericially viable algafuel operation. The upfront cost is huge if you create a controlled environment, and the cost of energy to maintain a the thermal thresholds in a structure is excessive, short of a moderate climate on a lake with zero threat of high winds, high thermal deviations, and extreme weather you end up with interior algafuel. This is an expensive endeavor with a very low initial internal rate of return. There is no Jatropha capable of yielding 15 million gallons of oil on 10,000 acres. Who ever stated that is an outright fabricator as it would be 1500 gallons per acre. Jatropha on its best yielding day can not deliver half that, this is more misleading information via the media.

    There are sound biofuel business models that work, higher professionals to evaluate your project first before expending any money on a venture in Biofuels. The media hype on Jatropha is the most damaging issue. Many 3rd world countries were suckered into the hype as the the Miracle bush, and are now abandoning the jatropha for other crops that feed themselves or actual provide a cash return.

    One 5 hour stretch below 32 degrees Fahrenheit Jatropha is DEAD.

    I author Biofuel Feasability Studies as my means of employment.


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