Our Bureau

Mumbai, Sept. 22

HINDUSTAN Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) has joined hands with the Maharashtra State Farming Corporation Ltd (MSFCL), a Government of Maharashtra undertaking, for a jatropha seed-based bio-diesel venture. Oil extracted from seeds of jatropha plant is blended with diesel to manufacture bio-diesel.

A pilot project has already been initiated wherein jatropha plant would be grown on 500 acres in Nashik and Aurangabad, Mr M.B. Lal, Chairman and Managing Director, HPCL, told newspersons on Wednesday.

Mr Lal said that HPCL is actively pursuing bio-diesel projects, which promises an opportunity to harness the vast wastelands of the country to produce seeds for bio-diesel production.

"This project will not only create value for our farmers but will also bring down foreign exchange outflow to an extent. It is also a proven fact that bio-diesel is environmentally friendly and thereby a cleaner fuel," Mr Lal said.

Bio-diesel with jatropha as base material is a viable fuel, he said, but it would require large area for cultivation though the project cost would not be high.

"There would be need for seeds in huge volumes, if the fuel is to be made available across the country. For achieving the target of a five per cent blend, the country would need to take up jatropha cultivation in huge tracts of land. Our project would take three years before seeds can be sold commercially," Mr Lal said.

Mr Lal said that HPCL would carry out further feasibility studies and more research on the oilseeds cultivated on these farms, as there were more than 60 jatropha varieties and the getting the right blend was essential. Similar initiatives are on the anvil in Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh, he said.

Officers in the State Government have confirmed that the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy, Maharashtra, is keen on supporting the new bio-diesel ventures. The government is planning to come out with notifications regarding bio-diesel initiatives soon, he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 23, 2005)
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