The Karanja Plant for Biomass Purposes?

I wish people would get away from talking PV and wind, or even reforestation and improved stoves. There’s room for all those but liquid fuels seem to be most important and in my region of India, karanja was chosen over other oil producing plants as it had an edge over other varieties. The karanja plant is of Indian origin, remains green during summer and also needs no pesticides. What do you think of this renewable resource? R. M., India

Answer: All renewables are needed to meet global energy demands for electricity, thermal energy, and transportation fuels. What makes biomass, if grown on a sustainable basis, most compelling is its ability to meet all three energy needs as well as produce other bioproducts such as fertilizers; animal feeds; building and road materials; glues, paints and resins; and more. Many crops are ideal candidates and are tied to the locality or regions climate, weather patterns, availability of water and land use. I asked some biomass experts some of their thoughts on ideal crops for fuels and coproducts and here is my random poll. >From Russ Delucia of S3dif (MA) – get the late series by Board on Science & Technology for International Development Commission on International Relations National Research Council, published by National Academy of Sciences, for example:a) “Tropical Legumes Resources for the Future” ’79; b) “Casuarinas: Nitrogen-fixing Trees for Adverse Sites” ’84; c) “Leucaena Promising Forage & Tree Crop for the Tropics” ’77; d) Food, fuel & Fertilizer from Organic wastes”’81. And don’t forget corn and some tree species such as: Neem and Honge. >From Huntington Hobbs, Managing Director – Agriculture, Winrock International (VA) – Philippines, The crop is, of course, rice, which is multi-purpose; the grain for food, the straw for everything imaginable including bedding, raingear, roofing, animal feed. The crop that combines food, fiber, oil would be coconut. For Afghanistan and Pakistan, with relatively dry areas, for thousands of years the crops of choice have been barley and wheat, with the straw used for multiple purposes similar to rice in The Philippines. Lentils and other forage legumes provide food, cover for the soil, and replenish the fertility of the land. In the upper colder elevations it iis probably possible that winter wheat is grow. For instance, agriculture in Angola is a basket case. Production has declined nealy 20% since 1980, only 2% of cropland is irrigated. Nearly 60% of its cereal needs are imports. The main crop, by a very wide margin, is cassava. Difficult to use for double-purpose as many cassava varieties are poisonous or have foul-tasting foilage to prevent livestock from eating the crop. A best multi-use crop here would be maize. Cotton will provide fiber and seeds for oil. >From Bill Holmberg, Biomass Coordinating Council (DC) – It depends on a whole bunch of things, as you know for biofuels a wide range of feedstocks including: sugar cane, corn, milo, sugar beets, casava, sweet potatoes, soybean, rape seed, canola, jahoba, African Palm, other palm trees, coconut, peanuts, switch grass, micantha, hybrid willow, hybrid popular, bamboo, ditch weeds, etc.And don’t forget the biomass fraction of municipal waste including construction waste, rights-of-way, park, yard and garden trimmings, kudzu and even aquatic biomass. >From Jerome Weingart of the International Resources Group, Ltd, (DC) – coconuts have many high value products such as cosmetics and medicines from virgin oils, refined coconut oil offers cooking oil and fuel and coco methyl ester (CME) which is both a diesel fuel alternative or diesel fuel additive, coco fiber for soil stabilization, coco “peat” (from coco dust) for high quality soil conditioner, pure vinegar and excellent soap. >From Scott Sklar of The Stella Group, Ltd, (DC) – Eucalyptus has a tap root and can withstand arid conditions, can be clearcut and grown again. The tree has many coproducts for direct combustion biomass to oil for fuels including: oil is readily distilled from the leaves and can be used for cleaning, deodorizing, and in very small quantities in food supplements; especially sweets, cough drops and decongestants. And, the Winged Bean plant produces pea-like beans with four winged edges. Almost every part of this unique plant is tasty and edible. The fresh young pods are similar to green beans with a chewy texture and a slightly sweet taste. When cooked, the leaves taste like spinach and the flowers like mushrooms. The firm-fleshed roots have a nutty flavor. This remarkable bean could become one of the most important crops for underdeveloped countries, because it offers a high source of protein. Winged bean is a tropical plant and grows vigorously in warm climates.. Using a pre-seeding treatment will allow moist/water to get into the inside to trigger the seed germination process for a high germination up to 90% . Seed coats are perfect for biomass power or fermented for ethanol fuels. >From assorted India groups: Seeds of karanja are crushed through an oil expeller, which separates the oil and the extract. The oil is filtered and passed through a chemical reactor, where it is mixed with methanol in the presence of a catalyst. The byproduct of the process is glycerin, and the oil cake can be used for production of biogas. URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=83804. Clearly, karanja joins the long list of potential energy and coproduct resources for this energy-challenged world. As these various experts show, many crops are available to produce many energy products, foods and feeds, and assorted coproducts. The limits are imagination, conversion technologies, transportation of feedstocks, and delivery infrastructure.
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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