Hemp Shows Promise as Biodiesel Feedstock

John Davis

Industrial hemp could be a good feedstock for biodiesel.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut
have found that Cannabis sativa’s ability to grow in poor soils makes it a sustainable source for the green fuel:

“For sustainable fuels, often it comes down to a question of food versus fuel,” says [Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering who led the study], noting that major current biodiesel plants include food crops such as soybeans, olives, peanuts, and rapeseed. “It’s equally important to make fuel from plants that are not food, but also won’t need the high-quality land.”

Today, there are still parts of the world that rely on Cannabis stalks as a primary fiber, mainly because of its ability to grow “like a weed,” without requiring lots of water, fertilizers, or high-grade inputs to flourish. But the seeds, which house the plant’s natural oils, are often discarded. Parnas points out that this apparent waste product could be put to good use by turning it into fuel.

“If someone is already growing hemp,” he says, “they might be able to produce enough fuel to power their whole farm with the oil from the seeds they produce.” The fact that a hemp industry already exists, he continues, means that a hemp biodiesel industry would need little additional investment.

While the hemp oil does a nice job of converting into biodiesel … 97 percent of the oil makes the transition … there is one major drawback: it’s illegal to grow in the U.S. Maybe that will change if lawmakers ever realize that this form of cannabis with less than 1 percent psychoactive chemicals in its flowers … about 1/20th of that of some of its potent cousins … won’t get you high.

Biodiesel, Research