Biofuels are fuels which are in some way derived from biomass. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases and also denotes Biodiesel, Bio alcohol and bio-gasoline.

Common Biofuel Crops

The most common Biofuel crops include Corn, Rapeseed/Canola, Sugarcane, Palm Oil, Jatropha, Soyabean, Cottonseed, Sunflower seeds, Wheat , Sugarbeet, Cassava, Algae, Coconut, Jojoba, Castor Beans etc.


Biodiesel is vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel consisting of long-chain alkyl esters. It is used as a blend to Petro Diesel and denoted by B factor. This means that 100% biodiesel is referred to as B100, while 20% biodiesel, 80% petro diesel is labelled B20. Similarly 5% biodiesel, 95% petro diesel is labelled B5.

Global biodiesel production was around 4 million tons in 2006 and around 85% of biodiesel production came from the European Union.

Jatropha Plant
  • Belongs to family Euphorbiacae, thus taxonomically related to Castor oil plant.
  • Resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil.
  • In India, Jatropha is known as Ratanjot shows resemblance with castor. Apart from Ratanjot, about nine species are reported out of which Jatropha Curcus has economic value by virtue of oil present in its seed.
  • In 2006, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research identified first ever Jatropha variety, SDAUJ I (Chatrapati) with higher oil content and yield for commercial cultivation. The seeds contain 49.2 per cent oil and the non-edible protein in defatted seed case is 47.8 per cent.
  • Farmers can get an average yield of 1000-1100 kg per hectare under rainfed conditions. The ICAR recommended it for the semi-arid and arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is drought resistant and can be raised successfully in areas where annual rainfall is 300-500mm. The plant attains a height up to 8 feet and shows resistance to all major pests.
National Policy on Biofuels

National Policy on Biofuels was released in 2009. Its salient features are as follows:

  • Bio-diesel production will be taken up from non-edible oil seeds in waste /degraded / marginal lands.
  • Achieve 20% blending of bio-fuels, both for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol, by 2017.
  • Announce Minimum Support Price (MSP) for non-edible oil seeds.
  • Announce Minimum Purchase Price (MPP) for purchase of bio-ethanol and bio-diesel.
  • Major thrust will be given to research, development and demonstration with focus on plantations, processing and production of bio-fuels, including Second Generation Bio-fuels.
  • A National Biofuels Coordination Committee, headed by the Prime Minister, will be set up to provide policy guidance and coordination.
  • A Biofuel Steering Committee, chaired by Cabinet Secretary, will be set up to oversee implementation of the Policy.

Cassava as source of Bioethanol

Cassava / Tapioca has been shown to have potential of being a feedstock for the production of bio-ethanol as fuel. This crop is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy, tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. It is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize. Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava.

Cassava has a high energy content, low maintenance and ability to grow under a wide range of climatic conditions. All these qualities render it a potential for production of bio-ethanol.  The technology for cassava alcohol, patented by the CTCRI in the 1980s, requires refinement for commercial scale production.

Biodiesel in Cold climates

Generally the biodiesel made from vegetable oil does not perform well in cold climates. This is because the vegetable oil is high in saturated fats and the ice crystals tend to form in the biodiesel. Further, the biodiesel obtained from certain crops such as canola oil is low in saturated fat, it is harder for ice to materialize in frigid temperatures, it is found to be showing excellent performance in cold climates too.

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