Tapping Trees For Diesel Fuel

Tapping Trees For Diesel Fuel

ByGroovy Green Apr 5, 2008

Australian farmers are embarking on a bit of an experiment to see whether or not they can self-sustain their production using diesel-producing trees. As some may know, I have a bit of a love-affair with plants that can produce — in one way or another — biodiesel. For those looking for an update to my “Adventures In Sustainability” series growing Jatropha — it’s coming soon. The plant is currently in hibernation. But I digress…

The diesel-producing trees are called Copaifera langsdorfii and are native to the Brazilian rainforest. The world has known of their unique properties since about the seventeenth century, but it’s only been recently that harvesting of the petrol is being planned on a grand scale. From the article,

The tree produces terpene hydrocarbons, which are the family of molecules that give us turpentine from pine resin. The particular hydrocarbons the Copaifera tree produces are so well suited to powering diesel engines that they can almost be put directly in the tank from the tree. It’s harvested in much the same way as a maple tree is tapped for producing syrup.

As with anything almost too good to be true, there is one catch. 100 trees will only produce about 25 barrels of diesel fuel annually. Additionally, that fuel will only last a couple months in terms of keep. That being said, Australian farmers aren’t interested in becoming the next OPEC. Instead, they hope the trees will provide a consistent and cheap fuel source for their machines; essentially making them independent producers and lessening the shock of oil prices on the bottom line. Not bad, right? The trees are expected to continue producing fuel for about 70 years.

The experiment is underway in North Queensland, Australia where farmers recently bought 20,000 of the Copaifera langsdorfii. In about 15 years, we should see how well the investment has paid off.