New Cuban biodiesel looks to 'bellyache bush'

July 16, 2012
An employee harvests jatropha fruits in 2008 in central Ivory Coast. A new biodiesel plant in Cuba -- the first of its type -- is turning seeds from the so-called "bellyache bush" into a green energy source.

A new biodiesel plant in Cuba -- the first of its type -- is turning seeds from the so-called "bellyache bush" into a green energy source, it was announced Monday.

Jatropha seeds are rich in oil but toxic for , explained Jose Sotolongo, director of the province's Center for Applied Technology for Sustainable Development.

"It's a major change to the widespread paradigm in global biofuel production," Sotolongo said, explaining the industry has so far mainly used edible vegetable oils, such as sunflower or soybean.

The jatropha plant offers the additional advantage, he added, "that its cultivation is feasible in areas of low or no agricultural value."

The small factory in Guantanamo province, on the eastern end of the island, is capable of producing over 100 tons of the fuel per year, according to the website of a local television station.

The factory was built with Cuban state funds, along with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Sotolongo said about 130 acres of jatropha were planted at Guantanamo to supply the factory, adding that the first few liters of fuel have already been used successfully to power agricultural machinery in the area.

The seeds have traditionally been used on the island to fight and to lower fevers, but only in small doses because it can be toxic.

Cuba already uses sugar cane or to produce electricity.

The communist nation, which currently imports half of its fuel from close ally Venezuela, has said it aims to generate a sixth of its electricity from before the end of the decade.

It is also exploring for oil in its part of the . The United States and Mexico, which also border the body of water, already produce oil from wells on the Gulf coast.

Explore further: Researchers work in Ghana to create biofuels from native tree seeds

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
Jatropha looked like an economical source of oil when I was involved in this industry 5 - 6 yrs ago but further study revealed that it was far, far too expensive to compete as an energy source in a market economy.

I guess that is why it has wound up in Cuba, where the difference in the value of Venezuelan petroleum and the Jatophra oil is made up using other peoples (market economy) money.

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