Turning Weeds Into Biodiesel

John Davis

As the prices of better-known biodiesel feedstocks, such as soybeans, remain high, more refiners are looking for additional sources for the green fuel. The latest feedstock might be some of the weeds you’re battling in your garden this year.

This story from the Albany (NY) Times Union says Innovation Fuels Inc., already producing 40 million gallons of biodiesel at its New York Harbor location from nonedible animal fats and used vegetable oils, is looking to what many people are NOT trying to grow as a source for two other plants at Fulton and Hampton, NY:

Innovation Fuels also is looking at other plant sources — mustard seeds, pennycress and camelina — that could produce the oils for biodiesel, said chief executive John Fox.

“They grow in northern regions, and grow in the shoulder months,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. The plants could be interplanted with corn and soybeans, and harvested with the same equipment. “You can do two plantings a year.”

In the past, the plants have been considered annoyances. “There’s a lot of research on how to eradicate them, but very little on how to cultivate them,” Fox said.

He said the weeds being explored as oil sources can yield 80 to 100 gallons of biodiesel per acre, compared to 40 gallons per acre for soybeans.

Recently, Innovation Fuels set up $15.5 million in financing, possibly for the new biodiesel plants.