Renewable fuels company Sustainable Oils shared the results of a life-cycle analysis of jet fuel created from proprietary Camelina seeds. According to the study, renewable jet-fuel made from Camelina reduces carbon emissions by 84% percent compared to the petroleum-based counterpart.
A team at Michigan Tech University based their research on Camelina grown in Montana and then processed into bio-jet fuel using “UOP hydroprocessing technology”. Next generation biofuels are true hydrocarbons and in the molecular aspect are indistinguishable from fossil fuels, which makes Camelina oil a good candidate to quickly reduce carbon emissions produced by aviation.
Sustainable Oil will continue to use the Montana acreage they have contracted for growing Camelina plants as the northern plains are well suited for growing the crop. Thousands of acres of Camelina seeds have already been planted in order to offset a fraction of the hundreds of millions of gallons of jet-fuel that will be needed over the course of the next five years. More effort is also being put forth to attract more farmers to grow Camelina, since it’s one of a handful of crops that has potential to provide sufficient feedstock to create large quantities of biojet fuel.
Camelina is well suited to be a sustainable biofuel crop, because it naturally contains high oil content and its oils are low in saturated fat. Camelina needs little water and requires less fertilizer and herbicides than most plants, and it’s is also a great rotation crop with wheat (meaning it does not displace food crops).
Researchers estimate that the state of Montana alone can support millions of acres of Camelina, generating the equivalent of 200 to 300 million gallons of bio jet fuel a year. The plant-based jet-fuel has shown in tests that it performs just as well if not better than traditional jet fuel and exhibits one of the largest greenhouse gas emission reductions of any renewable feedstock.
Camelina biojet fuel is not the only type of biojet fuel. NC State University has also developed a complex hydrocarbon fuel, suitable for military use. This biofuel can be derived from any renewable lipid-based oil compound, such as soybean, algae, canola or animal fats. They believe they were the first to look closely at creating biodiesel fuel from low quality feedstocks.
Wherever it’s coming from, these options both seem to offer us hope that we’ll have something to fly with later in this century.
Image Credit: el sustenator via Flickr under Creative Commons License