Korea Makes Strides in Bio-Fuel Technology

      May 14, 2007 09:03

      What do corn, beans, rape, sugarcane, wheat, Jatropha and hay have in common? They are all sources for environmentally friendly fuel. A complex process transforms them into bio-fuel such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. And in Korea, interest in these renewable resources is growing amid record international oil prices.

      As global awareness of the need to develop sustainable energy is growing due to global warming, Korean industries are taking their first steps in the development and production of bio-diesel. April 13 saw the launch of the “Seoul Eco Station" in Sonjeon-dong, Seoul.

      It opens officially on Monday after a month-long test operation. The gas station provides biodiesel 20 (BD 20) which is blended from 80 percent diesel and 20 percent bio-diesel made from soybean oil.

      The black, pine-nut-sized seeds of the Jatropha tree are a source of bio-diesel.

      A Seoul City official said 156 official vehicles including garbage trucks and construction vehicles in seven districts will run on BD 20 from Monday. The city government is considering a plan to convert all 2,000 of its cars to run on bio-diesel. Bio-diesel cars can reduce emissions of poisonous pollutants such as formaldehyde and carbon gas by between 13 and 21 percent compared with ordinary diesel cars. Other local governments including Jeju are also considering introducing BD20.

      Domestic businesses have started producing bio-diesel sources in Korea. Three local governments -- the Jeolla provinces and Jeju Island -- started growing rape on 4.95 million sq.m of idle farmland. The local government plans to purchase all rape produced by local farmers with national and local government funds of W2.6 billion over the next three years  (US$1=W927).

      Some Korean businesses are turning overseas to secure bio-diesel sources such as Cassava and Jatropha. Cassava is a root vegetable similar to sweet potato; the starchy root is used to produce bio-ethanol. Jatropha, whose seed is a source of biodiesel, grows in tropical parts of India and Africa. In India, a project using Jatropha to achieve energy independence has been underway for several years.

      But it was a Korean company that developed technology to enhance the productivity of the Jatropha tree. Oh Jea-chun, president of a horticulture company Namuworld said, "We have developed a technology to increase the fruit-bearing productivity of Jatropha. Jatropha trees are prone to six or seven kinds viruses, and we remove all of them by tissue culturing methods. We are ahead of Indian companies in this sector."

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