Virendra Pandit

The global giant recently joined a tripartite agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Bhavnagar, in a $950,000 project in Gujarat for five years.

CSMCRI on Monday unveiled a GM Tavera, running on B-100 jatropha methyl ester, that is, neat jatropha biodiesel, produced through an internationally patented process. “No modification of any kind has been made on the vehicle”, it said.

Mr David Tulauskas, Director, Public Policy, GM International Operations, told Business Line here that the project cost is part of a GM-DOE partnership worth $1.4 million to work on alternative and green fuels. GM runs several alternative fuel projects — including jatropha, CNG and LPG — in southern California (with the University of California), Mexico, South America, South-East Asia and India.

In India, GM independently runs a biodiesel project at Talegaon, near Pune, and another in Bhavnagar district in association with CSMCRI. CSMCRI had so far supplied to GM 17,000 litres of biodiesel and the latter has run some 50,000 km as test drives on six vehicles using this fuel. Laboratory-optimised strains of jatropha would be produced through selective and marker-assisted breeding in the designated farms.

Mr Karl Slym, President and Managing Director of GM India, said the tie-up reiterates the company’s commitment to green technology and alternative fuel solutions to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. “If jatropha proves commercially viable, GM India will be ready to respond by introducing biodiesel-capable products.”

The CSMCRI Director, Dr Pushpito K. Ghosh, said CSMCRI has a plant at Bhavnagar producing 500 litres of biodiesel a per day and another for the Defence Ministry, manufacturing one tonne of biodiesel daily.

Under the new partnership project, two new farms will be established on a 33-hectare plot in Bhavnagar and a 20-hectare plot in Kalol.

It will also oversee the existing GM-CSMCRI 30-hectare farm in Bhavnagar. Under the five-year partnership formalised between CSMCRI, GM and US DOE, jatropha would be developed as a sustainable energy crop. It aims at demonstrating that jatropha, a plant traditionally seen as a weed, can produce significant quantities of oil for commercial scale conversion to biodiesel. Jatropha is a drought-resistant, non-edible plant that can be grown commercially with minimal care on marginal land. Unlike corn and sugar cane, which are grown elsewhere for biofuels, jatropha is inedible. As a result, its cultivation for biofuel does not negatively impact the food chain.