Dr Kamrun Nahar, an agronomist and a prominent biofuel researcher and scientist, at the Department of Environmental Science and Management (Assistant professor), North South University, has been working for many years with drought and salinity resistant biofuel crops to produce bioenergy with less carbon and sulphur emissions. this report is based on her recent experiment on climate change adaptation and mitigation
Our lives are intrinsically linked to climate, and to energy use. The use of fossil fuels---primarily coal and oil---is responsible to change atmospheric temperatures enough to contribute to ever more destructive floods, salinity, droughts etc. One way to slow these trends is to increase energy efficiency and develop and use clean, sustainable energy sources so that harmful emissions do not continue to hurt the environment.
Biofuels, as biomass-based energy, have the potential to become major contributors to the global primary energy supply over the next century and expanding significantly in both developed, as well as in developing nations. They can be produced from any biological source; although, the most common sources are plants. Various plants and plant-derived materials are used for production of biofuel. Globally, biofuels are most commonly used to power vehicles, heating homes, running generators and cooking stoves, etc. These industries are fast expanding, primarily in America, Europe and now in Asia.
There are some energy crops in Bangladesh which can live for many years and could produce huge amount of seeds every year, from which biofuel can be easily produced. This will assist in meeting the increasing demand for fuel in the country. Jatropha and Castor are two important energy crops, producing seeds containing inedible oil, which can supply fuel and meet the national energy demands of Bangladesh. The plant does not need arable lands and does not compete with food.
Climate change is now a topmost environmental issue which also threatens to uproot many rural communities. For example, rising sea levels may force many communities living in low-lying coastal areas and river deltas in developing countries to move to higher ground. Similarly, increasingly frequent droughts brought on by climate change may leave farmers who rely on rainfall to raise their crops and livestock with no alternative but to abandon their lands. This is especially and fatally true for Bangladesh. Drought resistant biofuel crops could be cultivated for producing bio-energy which could help in the adaptation and also mitigation of climate change as biomass based energy releases less carbon and sulphur in the atmosphere with smoke free fuel.
Dr Kamrun Nahar, an agronomist and a prominent biofuel researcher and scientist, at the Department of Environmental Science and Management (Assistant professor), North South University, has been working for many years with drought and salinity resistant biofuel crops to produce bioenergy with less carbon and sulphur emissions, which further includes many environmental and socioeconomic benefits. Her research aims to lower dependence on petroleum based foreign oil by producing low carbon and sulphur emitting biofuels from the second generation energy crops cultivated in the unutilized wastelands of Bangladesh for use as a source of bioenergy.
She has been working with different types of soil with water stressed, salinity stressed as well as water logged condition to produce biofuel especially from non-food, crops like Jatropha and Castor plant which can grow in any soil, even the soil considered infertile for cultivation.
According to Dr. Nahar, the fuel produced from the two oil bearing crops could be used in lighting lamps, irrigation pump, farming machineries, home generators, transportations and most importantly, even as jet fuel with many environmental and socioeconomic benefits. The fuel could also be exported. She has published many research articles on biofuel crops in international and national journals and also the author of a book titled: Cultivation of Jatropha curcas L. in Bangladesh. A Sustainable Solution to the Energy, Environmental and Socioeconomic Crisis. It is based on research of the cultivation technology, ecological and agronomical aspects, crop yield and harvesting. This book also highlights the land use patterns and possible cultivation areas of Bangladesh. It further highlights the uses and socioeconomic benefits of the plant, production costs and briefly describes the procedure for the production of biodiesel and other useful by-products. Moreover, the comparison of biodiesel from Jatropha curcas with conventional fossil fuel is also discussed as well as its ability to sequester carbon from the environment.
By using biofuels for transportation, we can help restore the natural balance of CO2 in the atmosphere. Besides displacing fossil fuels, the feedstock used to make biofuels require CO2 to grow, and they absorb what they need from the atmosphere. Thus, much or all of the CO2 released when biomass is converted into a biofuel and burned in automobile engines is recaptured when new biomass is grown to produce more biofuels.
Dr Nahar, is planning to establish a Bioenergy Research Laboratory to teach the students at North South University and elsewhere about the research in this field. She had formerly worked under the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Biomass program, as a visiting scholar, and published her work with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida, in USA. Recently, she also had been invited and joined as a Visiting Professor, to work with Biofuel Cropping Systems at the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, at Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington, USA. She presented her paper regarding her research in "The Global Biotechnology Congress, 2014" in Boston, Massachusetts.
She also conducts ongoing research on her roof top garden as vertical expansion to evaluate the sustainability of bioenergy crops in different soils of Bangladesh with their root development, a very important aspect for consideration of plant growth and adaptation. She also adapted their sustainability including artificially creating drought and salinity stress in pot experiment at her roof top garden.
In the US, and in other European countries rapeseed, soybean, mustard, sunflower and other food crops are mainly used as feedstock for production of biofuel, while in Bangladesh will not be rely on these crops, which are sources for edible oils and need arable lands. In the long term, crops such as Castor and Jatropha can certainly be sustainable biomass feedstock for production of green energy. The expansion in cultivation of biofuel crops is driven not only by efforts to mitigate climate change but by high oil prices and national efforts to achieve energy and self-sufficiency. Biofuels can therefore be part of the solution of climate change adaptation and mitigation by growing in drought and salinity stressed areas and also in infertile land, which helps to contribute little or no CO2 to the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions.
"In order to combat our energy depletion, Jatropha and Castor based-biofuel emits around 80% less CO2 and 100% SO2 than the expensive and imported fossil fuel. The fuel burns with clear smoke-free flame and the by-products are also useful as the press cake or seed cake can be used as good organic fertilizer, containing Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus and other micronutrients." Dr. Nahar says, that the unused/infertile lands, and other uplands including the huge area of Chittagong hill tracts, low land, lake and riverside, char lands, railway sides could be easily taken under consideration for biofuel cultivation. Bioenergy crop cultivation will be more profitable and land productivity can be increased many folds in comparison to other crops cultivation in Bangladesh.