There’s algae and switchgrass – now add camelina to the roster of second generation biofuel crops. Camelina is an herb originally from the Mediterranean that has recently been used for its oil, similar to flax.
Camelina seed could become a major player in the realm of aviation of fuels if Sustainable Oils has anything to say about it. And the Bozeman, MT renewable fuel company most certainly does. It says the results of a life cycle analysis of jet fuel derived from camelina seeds show that the fuel reduces carbon emissions by 84 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel.
Sustainable’s research was done at Michigan Tech University in collaboration with UOP, a Honeywell company. The study was based on camelina grown in Montana and processed into biojet fuel using UOP’s hydroprocessing refining technology. UOP calls this the Renewable Jet Process.
“The quickest way to reduce carbon emissions from aviation is to begin replacing petroleum fuel with fuel made from renewable and sustainable camelina oil,” says Scott Johnson, general manager of Sustainable Oils. “The acreage that we have contracted for 2009 will be used primarily to continue to develop the promising biojet market.”
He adds that the company has planted “thousands of acres of camelina specifically for this use.” This will: “Prepare us to supply the hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel we will need within five years. No other potential feedstock can provide as much fuel in as short a horizon.”
So what is camelina? It’s apparently well-suited to be a sustainable biofuel crop, as it naturally contains high oil content. Also it’s seed oils are low in saturated fat, it is drought resistant and requires less fertilizer and herbicides. Most importantly, it is an excellent rotation crop with wheat, and it can grow in marginal land, and it does not displace other crops or compete as a food source.
It is estimated that the state of Montana alone could support between 2 and 3 million acres of camelina, generating 200 to 300 million gallons of oil each year, Johnson says.
“Camelina is one of the most promising sources for renewable fuels that we’ve seen,” said Billy Glover, managing director, Environmental Strategy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “It performed as good if not better than traditional jet fuel during our test flight with Japan Airlines earlier this year, and supports our goal of accelerating the market availability of sustainable, renewable fuel sources that can help aviation reduce emissions. It’s clear from the LCA results that camelina is one of the leading near-term options and, even better, it’s available today.”
Professor David Shonnard, MTU’s Robbins Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering says:
Camelina green jet exhibits one the largest greenhouse gas emission reduction of any agricultural feedstock-derived biofuel I’ve ever seen. This high number is the result of the unique attributes of the crop – its low fertilizer requirements, high oil yield and the use of co-products, such as meal and biomass, for other uses.