The Environmental Services Division of Wartsila Australia is currently installing engines in Australia driven by an alternative energy source - rich oil obtained from a naturally occurring product, the jatropha nut.
This new alternative energy technology, already trialled extensively by Wartsila’s global parent company, presents the market with a viable option for replacing incumbent diesel engines and power stations with a biodiesel-powered alternative.
The company has already used a Wärtsilä 20V32 Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine with an electrical output of some 9 MW to sufficiently serve some 20,000 households with total energy requirements in Belgium.
This installation uses heat from digested biomass processing and the resulting electricity is sold to the local power grid.
General manager of services sales for Wartsila Australia, David Trench notes that the new jatropha oil is cheaper than crude oil.
With fossil fuel resources inevitably dwindling, he says that the company will continue to invest in developing alternative energy solutions and develop engines that are able to use alternative fuels.
Jatropha oil can be relatively easily processed into biodiesel, and comes from jatropha curcas nuts or seeds which are crushed.
The maximum oil content that has been reported in jatropha seeds has been close to 47%, with the accepted average about 40%, and the fraction that can be extracted from that is taken to be around 91%.
Jatropha is native to Central America and has become naturalised in many tropical and subtropical areas, including India, Africa, and North America.
The plant is generally only cultivated for the purpose of extracting oil, negating the problems associated with using corn for biodiesel, which has prompted a rise in food prices in certain parts of the world due to the competition for its use.
Jatropha seeds cannot be ingested by humans, so the major and perhaps only goal of jatropha cultivation is to extract jatropha oil for biodiesel use.
On January 7, 2009, Continental Airlines successfully completed a test flight from Houston, Texas using a 50/50 mixture of algae/jatropha oil-derived alternative energy biofuel in one of the two CFM56 engines of a Boeing 737-800. Closer to home, Air New Zealand has announced plans to use the new fuel for 10% of its needs by 2013.