Alternative energy firm D1 Oils has secured a UK patent to detoxify Jatropha so that it can be used as an animal feed.
The patent covers a process for the co-extraction of oil and a protein-rich seedcake, with the anti-nutritional factors removed, ideally suited for use as animal feed.
D1 Oils has been conducting a research programme during the last four years to enhance the value of the Jatropha business model.
The seedcake has higher protein content than soybean meal and should achieve at least price parity with it in the marketplace.
Soy meal is normally priced at over $300/tonne and thus the innovation would reduce future production costs of crude Jatropha oil by more than 30%.
CEO Martin Jarvis said: "This is a major milestone in our programme. The ability to use a by-product for animal feed will dramatically improve the economics of growing Jatropha.
"We will now be up-scaling our process for full commercial use."
Jatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas
), from the family Euphorbiaceae
As with many members of the family Euphorbiaceae
, Jatropha contains compounds that are highly toxic.
Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. It is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil.
The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production, and with proper treatment as animal feed.
Currently the oil from Jatropha curcas seeds is used for making biodiesel fuel in Philippines and in Brazil, where it grows naturally and in plantations in the Southeast, and the North/Northeast Brazil.
Likewise, jatropha oil is being promoted as an easily grown biofuel crop in hundreds of projects throughout India and other developing countries.
In Africa, cultivation of Jatropha is being promoted and it is grown successfully in countries such as Mali.
In the Gran Chaco of Paraguay, where also a native variety (Jatropha matacensis) grows, studies have shown suitability of Jatropha cultivation[ and agro producers are starting to consider planting in the region.