On our way back from the river, Joshua Hughes showed us some of his Jatropha plants. The species of Jatropha that produces biofuels is Jatropha Curcas. Jatropha can be planted from either seeds or cuttings. We brought plant cuttings back from Costa Rica and planted them in our own back yard. They grew to over 4 feet in about 9 months.
The picture above is the fruit that develops on Jatropha Curcas. The source of the fuel comes from pressing the seeds that are inside the fruit. The fruit is not edible and is ignored by grazing cattle. In Costa Rica it is used as fence posts because of that reason.
To learn about one process of turning Jatropha seeds into a Biofuel, I went on a exclusive private tour of Applied Research Associates (ARA) in Panama City, Florida. I visited ARA while my father, John Mann, was there for a meeting. My father is the Division Manager at the ARA Orlando, FL office. http://www.ara.com/Newsroom_Whatsnew/press_releases/BIOJP8.html
The picture to the left is an experimental stage of a processor for creating bio crude oil. The process is called Catalytic Hydrothermolysis, meaning that it uses high heat and pressure to convert oil into a hydrocarbon fuel. The process can use oil from many different plants including Jatropha, Camelina, Castor, peanuts, and soy. The bio crude is much like the crude oil extracted from the ground, except that it is made from renewable resources and it does not contain pollutants. ARA has refined this oil into jet fuel and it has passed Air Force testing to verify that it meets jet fuel specifications.
On the right, I am standing next to Dr Lixiong Li, the inventor of the process. Dr Li also invented a machine called Sterile Water for Injection Generation System (SWIFI). It is a portable unit used to purify water for Intravenous (IV) fluids. In the picture, we are standing in front of the machine and I’m holding one of the IV bags.
The picture on the left shows containers of jet fuel. The container furthest to the left was jet fuel made from soybean oil. The center sample was made from Jatropha. The container on the right was developed from fossil fuels. The samples made from soy and Jatropha are clear because they do not contain pollutants. The sample made from fossil fuel has a yellowish color.
The chemist in the photo to the right is Devin Walker. Devin is holding a sample of bio crude that was produced from ARA’s process. After a sample is produced, it has to go through additional processing steps to refine it into a fuel. ARA has produced jet fuel, naval distillate, and diesel fuel.
Special Thanks to John Mann (my father) who contributed information for this article. I also want to thank Dr Lixiong Li, Church Grimes, and Devin Walker for giving me an informative tour of the ARA Biofuel laboratory.