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Oil-producing trees to help solve fuel shortage
www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-24 19:26:39

Related: China raises processed oil prices
                  Oil prices surge above 71 dollars on eve of energy stocks report
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     KUNMING, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Oil-producing trees are being planted in southwest China's Yunnan Province to increase the region's fuel supply.

    The new project will result in more than 666,000 hectares of jatropha curcas trees being planted with the aim of extracting bio-diesel for automobiles. This year, the trees will be planted over a 25,000-hectare area.

    Scientists have found that the oil content of the seeds of jatropha curcas trees can be as high as 30 percent.

    China's energy consumption has increased by an average of five percent every year since 1998. The country's energy consumption totaled 2.22 billion tons of standard coal equivalent last year, up 9.5 percent over that in 2004, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

    Last year, China imported 168 million tons of oil, accounting for 42.9 percent of the total volume of oil consumed in the country in the same year, according to customs statistics.

    China has taken active steps to solve energy shortages including the development of renewable energy such as solar energy, wind power and hydropower as well as bio-liquid fuel and ethanol fuel.

    Yunnan is the first Chinese province to expand jatropha curcas tree planting for bio-diesel.

    Mountainous areas account for 94 percent of Yunnan's total land space of 394,000 square kilometers, providing enough space for planting oil-bearing woods.

    Currently, the forest coverage rate of the province stands at 49.4 percent, according to the provincial forestry bureau. The province still has four million hectares of barren hills, 1.2 million hectares of which are located in the dry and warm valleys of the Jinsha, Lancang and Honghe rivers, where jatropha curcas trees can grow well.

    Yunnan began planting jatropha curcas trees, originally native to America, in the 1980s and has conducted research on extracting oil from the trees ever since.

    Zhang Wudi, head of the bio-fuel research lab of Yunnan Province, said that they have mastered the techniques of extracting the bio-diesel.

    Experiment results show that one kilogram of bio-diesel oil can be made from three kilograms of seeds. Normally, one hectare of jatropha curcas trees can produce 4,500 kilograms of seeds, from which 1,500 kilograms of bio-diesel can be made, Zhang said.

    Cost of such diesel oil can reach 5.4 yuan (about 0.67 U.S. dollars) per kilogram and its market price could be even higher, said Zhang. Currently the price of petrochemical diesel oil is only about 4.3 yuan (about 0.53 U.S. dollars).

    According to Zhang, an automobile consumes 10 percent more bio-diesel than when it uses petrochemical diesel on the mileage.

    To develop the bio-diesel industry, more oil-bearing trees need to be planted, Zhang said.
    He suggested that the government should grant subsidies to relevant enterprises to reduce costs, and that could make the price more acceptable to consumers.

    Cars using such bio-diesel do not produce sulphur dioxide, and they generate less carbon monoxide and other harmful gases, according to Zhang.

    Jatropha curcas trees are also found in China's provinces of Sichuan, Guangdong, Hainan, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, but the acreage is smaller than that in Yunnan.

    The Chinese Government encourages development of bio-liquid fuel. The State Forestry Administration has established an office to develop bio-energy based on trees, according to Yunnan Provincial Forestry Bureau.

    By 2020, China's production capacity of bio-liquid fuel such as fuel ethanol and bio-diesel will reach 12 million tons, which could substitute some 10 million tons of refined oil products, predicted Han Wenke, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Enditem

Editor: Mo Hong'e
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