Farmers in Northern Queensland, Australia, are investigating another approach to producing renewable fuel: growing diesel trees. As weird as that sounds, it’s real, and it isn’t a scientific breakthrough. We’ve actually known about the trees for over 300 years.
As Treehugger reported earlier this week, farmers in the more tropical region Queensland purchased about 20,000 Brazilian diesel trees, or Copaifera langsdorfii, with the intention of having a living oil-mine in 15 years. According to Purdue University, a 100 acre plot of trees could produce about 25 barrels of oil per year.
The evergreen diesel tree produces a hydrocarbon oleoresin called copaiba, that collects in an unusual capillary structure extending throughout its length. The trees can produce oil for up to 70 years, and can grow to be as tall as 35 meters and 1 meter in diameter. Oil extraction takes place by boring a hole into the trunk, a practice that indigenous peoples have been doing for quite some time (they used the oil as an emollient).
The best part about the oil is that it apparently needs no processing to be used in a diesel engine.
Don’t expect the diesel tree to start meeting the needs of US oil consumption, since it won’t grow here and the oil yields aren’t enormous. But it could be extremely useful in certain situations (like farming in Northern Queensland):
“Principally, they are an ideal plantation tree for a family farm where, from generation to generation, you will harvest this oil so that your grandson and your great-grandson can still be virtually getting free fuel from these trees 30 to 50 years in the future.”