San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Meeting Looks to Native Tree as Fuel Source

The Costa Rica Seed Company and the United Biofuels of America hosted the first Jatrohpa Harvest Experience, Costa Rica 2009, on April 1 through 3 to educate attendees about the uses of the Jatropha curcas tree.

Professors and researchers from the United States spoke at the three-day event at the Marriott Los Sueños in Playa Herradura and participants received a crash course in the Jatropha bio-fuel production process.

The Jatropha curcas is a native Central American tree that is slated as a major player in the future of biodiesel production.

The tropical plant produces inedible nuts whose seeds can contain up to 40 percent oil. When crushed and processed, the result is oil that can be used in standard diesel engines.

Wilfred Dermerris, a bio-fuel researcher at the University of Florida, said the tree is “a potentially worthy source of bio-fuel.”

Because the nut is heavily toxic, Dermerris expressed some concern about the dangers it may pose to humans and animals if grown in large quantities, but said that its toxicity may be beneficial.

“It’s not a crop that would have to compete with food consumption, so it can completely dedicate itself to biodiesel production,” he said.

He also noted that the Jatropha tree is a resilient crop that can grow well in harsh environments where other sources of biodiesel cannot.

The Costa Rica Seed Company and United Biofuels of America have not announced if they will host a second workshop, but participants at this year’s session received training in planting and pruning as well as demonstrations in the oil extraction and refining process.

–Mike McDonald


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