Lesson 67: A Green Fuel-Jatropha (Level 2+)

National newspapers on August 28, 2018 carried exciting news. A blend of oil from jatropha seeds and aviation turbine fuel powered an aircraft on Monday between Dehradun and Delhi.

The biofuel was extracted from the jatropha plant.  Jatropha is a tropical, drought-resistant, oil-rich flowering plant.  It is being grown for this purpose by 500 farmers in Chhattisgarh.  This biofuel was first tested on a 20-minute flight with only crew a day earlier.  After the green fuel performed better than expected, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation cleared the way for the first-ever flight with passengers.

The aircraft had 1,300 kg of fuel for the Dehradun- Delhi flight, of which 325kg was biofuel. The minute it touched down at the Delhi airport, all the passengers on board broke into applause.

The seeds of the jatropha plant are crushed and processed to produce a high quality biofuel. Biofuel blends for jet engines can also be prepared using biomass, animal fat, vegetable oil, agricultural waste, and natural gas.

Why is it crucial to find alternatives to petroleum? Petroleum reserves are depleting and at the current rate of production, it will be finished in 53 years. Petroleum is expensive and its cost is going up. Biofuel is also environmentally friendly- it emits fewer pollutants when it is burnt.

Fuels from plants and crops are known as biofuels. They include:

  • Ethanol from sugarcane, sugar beet, corn, etc.
  • Biogas or biofuel from plant material like jatropha seed oil or animal waste.

Jatropha has great potential as a biofuel because of the following reasons:

  • It grows easily in varying conditions. It also grows on wasteland.
  • It is not browsed by cattle.
  • Its seeds can yield oil for up to 40 years.
  • It is inexpensive. The seeds cost around Rs. 5 per kg.

A) Vocabulary:

Aviation Turbine Fuel – petroleum based jet fuel.
Biofuel – a fuel derived from living matter
Drought – resistant- the ability of a plant to tolerate dry conditions
Crew – a group of people who work on and operate a ship or an aircraft
Applause – clapping, cheering
Biomass – energy from burning wood or other organic matter
Deplete – use up, consume, reduce
Pollutant – a substance that pollutes the environment

B) Discussion Points

  1. What do you know about biofuel?
  2. What are the sources of biofuel?
  3. What is a fossil fuel?
  4. Research fossil fuels on the Internet and name 3.
  5. How are fossil fuels formed?
  6. What do we need fossil fuels for?
  7. What are the disadvantages of using fossil fuel?
  8. Why are different kinds of biofuel being developed?
  9. What are the advantages of biofuel?
  10. Research biofuel on the Internet and discuss four sources of biofuel.
  11. Look up Jatropha Curcason the Internet.Please list 5 characteristics of this plant.
  12. Do you think that the discovery of jatropha as a source of biofuel is important? If so, why?