Camelina for Biodiesel A Good Bet

Joanna Schroeder

Camelina continues to show promise as a second-generation feedstock for biodiesel. The feedstock has several advantages including a high oil content, grows on marginal land and needs little to no fertilizer or water. It contains a high amount of Omega-3s and its dried distillers grains have already been approved as cattle feed. Researchers at Penn State have been working with farmers along with HERO BX to test the viability of camelina for several years and early tests are showing great promise.

However, camelina began its upward trajectory as a viable feedstock for biodiesel when aviation tests were successfully conducted using biodiesel blends including camelina (HERO BX was involved in some of these tests).

There is also research underway at Washington State University (WSU) and researchers Scott Hulbert and Bill Pan are working with local farmers to refine camelina varieties, cropping practices, economics and marketing. The research is part of a new major initiative called the “Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest” project. In partnership with Alaska Airlines, Boeing, the Port of Seattle, the Port of Portland, and Spokane International Airport, the project will look at biomass options, including camelina, within a four-state region as possible sources for creating renewable jet fuel.

According to a press release from July 12, announcing the project the partnership will examine all phases of developing a sustainable biofuel industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina, wood byproducts and others. The project is jointly funded by the participating parties and is expected to be completed in approximately six months.

“The Pacific Northwest is a global gateway for people, cultures and commerce and aviation is a vital contributor to that process,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh. “Developing a sustainable aviation fuel supply now is a top priority both to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity at regional levels and to support the broader aim of achieving carbon-neutral growth across the industry by 2020.”

Biodiesel, News