A group of energy, biotechnology, and agribusiness people have formed SG Biofuels, a plant oil company based in San Diego, Calif. specializing in the development of jatropha as a low-cost, sustainably-produced source of oil.

Kirk Haney, SG Biofuels president, introduced the company at the 2009 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in San Francisco, Calif.

"We're turning the opportunities of Jatropha into reality with a world-class team of scientists and geneticists, deep resources and expertise in Latin American agribusiness, and a commitment to sustainable production," Haney said.

SG Biofuels’ scientific team led by Robert Schmidt combines more than 100 years experience in plant molecular genetics and biotechnology, and includes three members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The company says it’s assembled the largest and most diverse library of jatropha genetic material in the world to develop the most productive jatropha strains.

Jatropha curcas is a non-edible shrub that is native to Central America. Its seeds contain high amounts of oil that can be used for a variety of bio-based materials including biodiesel and feedstock substitutes for the petrochemical and aviation fuel industries.

According to SG Fuels, jatropha can be effectively grown on abandoned lands unsuitable for other crops.

SG Biofuels says its Latin America jatropha out performs palm, soy, and jatropha from India based on low temperature performance and long-term storage stability.

A one-acre jatropha research trial, unrelated to SG Biofuels, is underway at the California Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, Calif. The purpose of the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) research is to determine if jatropha can be successfully grown and profitable in Southern California.