Biofuel assessments

From Opasnet
Jump to: navigation, search

Main message:

What are the factors that might compromise the acceptance and ecological sustainability of biodiesel production from jatropha plant and wastes generated in fish processing industry ? Particularly, what are the effects of these activities on the environment and the society, and how do they affect the acceptance among clients and public at large?


The utilization of the jatropha plant in biodiesel production does not seem quite as promising as that of the fish waste. The same problems with direct and indirect changes in the use of landscape and the competition with food production that have come up with the cultivation of other plants used for bioenergy apply to jatropha as well. The benefit of jatropha is its ability to grow in harsher environments, but in these conditions the oil production of the plant decreases. Fish waste is an unavoidable side product of fish farming, and thus the production of the waste does not cause additional emissions. However, the emissions and effects of fish farming can not be left unnoticed, because the utilization of the waste can also make the primary process more profitable, thus increasing the emissions and effects locally.

These assessments have been evaluated. A summary of the evaluation is available on the discussion page.


This page is summary page of The use of Jatropha as a source of bioenergy (in Finnish) and The use of fish farming residue as a source of bioenergy (in Finnish) assessment pages.


What are the factors that might compromise the acceptance and ecological sustainability of biofuel production from jatropha plant and wastes generated in fish processing industry? Particularly, what are the effects of these activities on the environment and the society, and how do they affect the acceptance among clients and public at large?


  • Examine the role of Finland in global bioenergy production.
  • The focus is mainly on the production of biodiesel and other liquid fuels used in motorised traffic.
  • Impacts considered are mainly environmental, climate, and social impacts, but essential health, economical etc. impacts are not ruled out.

Assessed options (scenarios)

  • Present state and business as usual. Jatropha and fish waste have no role in Finnish energy production.
  • Jatropha and fish waste are used to small extent in energy production.
  • Jatropha and fish waste are used to a significant degree in energy production.

Intended use and users

The assessment is of an immediate importance to Neste Oil corporation and other energy production companies in guiding sensible decision making upon future directions in energy production. It is also of significance to all interested people or groups willing to enhance their knowledge regarding biofuel options.


The principal investigator in the assessments was senior researcher Jouni Tuomisto (MD, PhD) from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos). Neste Oil Corporation provided financial support to making of the assessments and participated in the assessment work. The open assessment group consisting of Minttu Hämäläinen, Pauli Ordén, Tiia Sorjonen, Jaakko Örmälä, Matleena Tuomisto, Johannes Kröger, Elina Hirvonen made a significant part of all the assessment work. Vilma Sandström, Teemu Rintala and Mikko Pohjola participated mostly in coordinating the assessments. Sami Majaniemi participated in the evaluation discussions and writing of a related scientific article. In addition, 18 stakeholders were invited to participate in the assessment. This was an Open assessment, so anyone was free to participate. The assessment is now over. However, commenting of the content is still possible. You can use the commenting possibility at the end of the page.



An advantage of the jatropha plant over other oil producing plants is the fact that on the one hand it can survive in barren soil and on the other hand it can produce a big harvest in good conditions. Jatropha is poisonous and inedible, unlike corn and palm oil. However, jatropha has not been able to fulfill all expectations. The harvest is highly dependent on irrigation and the nutrient content of the ground. While jatropha can survive in dry barren soil, the oil production remains significantly lower than in irrigated nutritious soil. In areas where cultivable land and water for irrigation limit cultivation, jatropha may compete of land use with food production. It can also have both direct and indirect effects on the ecosystems locally: jatropha cultivation may directly take space from ecosystems or indirectly by causing other activities to take over other still untouched areas. With dispersed and small scale jatropha cultivation logistics becomes a problem, possibly making jatropha cultivation -based businesses to turn out economically infeasible.

The jatropha plant grows in tropical areas, where its cultivation could bring additional revenues and have a positive influence on the development locally. The harvesting of jatropha is still mainly hand work requiring a lot of workforce and thereby may increase the employment locally. Underpayment and seasonal unemployment may turn out problematic. Small-scale jatropha cultivation can be profitable for local use, especially if other uses (such as erosion prevention) exist.

The oilwaste of fish production

Fish farming industry produces a significant amount of waste annually. The main focus of this assessment was specifically on fish farming. Using this waste in biodiesel production looks like a promising option. The waste coming from fish farming is cheap and its production not cause additional emissions, because it is a side stream of another process. This assessment concentrated on the wastes of the South-East Asian fish farming region, but other regions that could provide sufficiently big amounts of fish waste for the commercial production of biodiesel are not ruled out.

When considering fish waste in biofuel production, other possible uses for the waste must also be taken into account. If heavy waste has to be transported long distances, the transportation may produce greenhouse gases, which may exceed the benefits of using biodiesel. It is also good to take account of the impacts of the waste producing process on the environment and society. On the other hand it could be argued, that fish waste is produced anyway, and its utilization does not influence the impacts of fish farming. However, using of the waste may make fish farming more profitable thus increasing its amount and thus increasing also its local environmental impacts. The environmental impacts of fish farming are highly dependent on what is used as the feed for fish. If they are fed caught fish, it may put pressure on local fish stocks, which are endangered all around the world. Also the untreated waste waters from the farming let out in the waters may cause eutrophication. Fish farming may increase employment locally, but on the other hand can compete for the local resources, such as water and land area, with local food production and other activities.

In common

The goal of the EU and Finland is to use biofuels to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of traffic and increase the EU's energy self-reliance. In both assessments the raw materials are produced outside the EU, so they would not decrease the EU's dependence on imported oil. However, the assessments did not consider which markets the produced biodiesel would be sold to.


Diagram of biodiesel production from jatropha. [1]
Diagram of biodiesel production from fish waste. [2]

The two assessments were done in open web workspace Opasnet, and all details were openly available for anyone to read during the work and also afterwards: Jatropha curcas as a source for biofuel (in Finnish) and Fish waste oil from fish farming as a source for biofuel (in Finnish).

Each assessment is based on a causal model describing biodiesel production and its impacts on local environment and social issues and on climate emissions. In addition, a critical part of both models is a feasibility estimate: how much land or fish farming should be covered in order to produce enough raw material for a large-scale industrial process? Some monetary estimates are calculated as well.

The causal diagrams on the right show the structures of the models. In both models, there is one decision to be made by the biofuel producer: the amount of biofuel produced using the specified raw material. The decision affects the size of the activity and thus environmental, climate, and social impacts. The inputs and outputs were quantified when possible, and otherwise described qualitatively. Monte Carlo simulation was used to propagate uncertainties through the model. The models were performed using R statistical software.

The concept of the models was to present all data used in the models on the web pages that described those issues also verbally. In other words, the web pages were designed to be readable by both humans and machine. This approach was used to improve the readers' possibility to understand the logic and details of the models, and also to promote the idea that the output of the model results can directly be improved by changing content on the web pages. The pages are technically just wiki pages and thus easily editable.

The model runs are available for Fish waste oil and jatropha.

See also

Key words

Jatropha, fish waste, bioenergy, climate change, energy production, biofuel, biodiesel


Related files


VipuvoimaaEU rgb1.jpg Eakr logo fi.png