Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Jun 30

Biofuel as a Jet Fuel Alternative?

Posted in Biofuels | Future Technology | Transportation

Biofuel Jet Fuel The seeds of a humble weed could lower a jet fuel’s cradle-to-grave carbon emissions by 84 percent. Camelina sativa is an oilseed crop and it might be used as fuel in aircrafts in the near future. A study conducted at Michigan Technological University claimed that Camelina has shown to be one of the more promising alternatives to petroleum jet fuel. They studied the whole process i.e. from planting to airplane’s tailpipe. David Shonnard, Robbins Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering, studied the carbon dioxide emissions of jet fuel made from Camelina oil. He elaborates, “Camelina jet fuel exhibits one of the largest greenhouse gas emission reductions of any agricultural feedstock-derived biofuel I’ve ever seen. This is the result of the unique attributes of the crop – its low fertilizer requirements, high oil yield, and the availability of its co-products, such as meal and biomass, for other uses.”


Let’s learn something about Camelina. Camelina sativa belongs to the mustard family. Camelina sativa’s origin can be traced to Europe. It is also known as false flax or gold-of-pleasure. It offers certain benefits. It is a dry-land crop, needs little nitrogen and can be grown in rotation with wheat. It boosts the strength of the soil. Shonnard shares his knowledge, “After a Camelina crop the land is returned ‘rested’ and ready for another 3 or 4 years of wheat cultivation.” If you are growing Camelina you don’t have to worry about ‘investment’ because it requires minimal input. So if we talk in the language of economics the cost of production is significantly lower than other alternative fuel crops. David Shonnard shares another benefit of the crop, “Camelina is a short season crop (85 to 100 days) and is frost tolerant so it can be planted early. We can use excess Camelina oil as feedstock for animals. Eastern Washington, Montana, and the Dakotas are cultivating Camelina. But we should remember that if the demand increases it can be cultivated in other dry areas of U.S.A. We can bring more uncultivated area under this crop too.”

Camelina oil seems right for the conversion to a hydrocarbon green jet fuel. It meets or sometimes exceeds all petroleum jet fuel specifications. Camelina oil is companionable with existing fuel infrastructure, so we don’t have to invest heavily on that account. Shonnard shares his opinion, “It is almost an exact replacement for fossil fuel. Jets can’t use oxygenated fuels like ethanol; they have to use hydrocarbon replacements.”

Boeing executive Billy Glover, who is the managing director of environmental strategy, says about Camelina oil, “It performed as well 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 life cycle analysis that Camelina is one of the leading near-term options and, even better, it’s available today.”

Though there are a few hiccups such as price and availability of commercial-scale quantities of second generation feedstocks. Farmers should also be taken into confidence about growing a new crop. And refineries too should be willing to process it. If such hurdles can be taken care of, it can create job and income opportunities in rural areas.

  • justwatching

    Interestingly enough the average age of farmers in the U.S. is over 55 years. Most of the family farms have been ruined by the death tax and a world wide drought so most of their children have left the farm. If you think government and large corporate farms will work just ask the people of the former Soviet Union. We need real farmers now, not farm workers.

  • http://www.heavenlyfarms.com Harpal Singh grewal

    It is very encouraging to read that we can wash clothes with one cup of water. Alternate energy era is going to bring new surprises. In India the sucking pest for mustard was controlled by burning mustard oil up wind & also in case of late rains, it was conceived that by cooking pan cakes in mustard oil brings rain,these things must have some scientific background which was never explained to the masses. If we back track this process & study it in the light of today’s fossil fuel burning in the air, we know the problems faced by us in the present times (pollution). Learning from alternate energy site about the Jets burning veg oil is very encouraging & it is bound to bring positive results. We at Heavenly Farms have developed a wood gasifier which pays for its running in other words it produces electricity for almost free of cost if we consider to evaluate the bi-products it produces (charcoal, coal, bio-oil, heat energy, cooking gas & electricity. We are using used petrol & diesel engines. Seeing is believing, one unit is under testing at IIP (Indian Institute of Petroleum Dehradun) another unit has been handed over to IIT Ahmedabad for exports to Germany. It is simple machine compact in size, easily operable, easy to handle/operate, easy maintained, cost effective & mobile. Any body is welcome to visit us & have demonstration or see it running at the farms.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Dave Yates

    I’m concerned about this rush for biofuels. I understand that it might look attractive at first, but it’s going to divert a lot of land away from food crops, leading to food shortages+ price increases. Even if the crops are grown on marginal land,that will increase the carbon footprint of Camelina sativa.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Chris Derudder

    I agree Dave: biofuel is NOT an alternative energy source!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Andy Kent

    Good grief. First “eat or drive”. Now “eat or fly”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Missy Marie Neferet Iwneferi

    I don’t think we, as Americans, are in any danger of eating too little.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news William Welton

    It’s not a rush for biofuels; it’s a rush for alternative energy. May the best source win. There’s really no need to be paranoid about things just yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Todd Butler

    Biofuel is a great stepping stone towards clean and sustainable energy sources. Unfortunately for it to be a sustainable alternative power source over the long run, we likely would need to process most of our food sources grown in the Midwest. There just isn’t enough plant matter to meet the current demand. I encourage the use of bioful (especially if it is being made from a waste stream) and applaud the effort, but this is just one small piece to the puzzle.

    We need to stop being the typical American energy leaches, cut down our energy demands, and explore all options. There is no one “golden egg” in this matter. Wind, solo, hydrogen, etc. should all be explored and utilized. Numerous alternative energy sources will be required to replace petroleum. The specific alternative energy source that is used regionally will depend on the specific attributes of that region. For instance, it makes the most scenes for hot, dry, sunny areas to utilize solar, and for windy coastal areas too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Brian Gibson

    The real change will have to be in the mindset of people used to our power sources coming from concentrated fuels. Gas, coal etc to less centralized sources which will be better for networks too. Small solar locally or in home. Tidal etc and better insulation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Justin Peters

    Bio-fuels don’t have to be made from food sources of course, nor do they need to consume new arable land necessarily. They do burn cleaner than traditional diesel and they get us off carbon-based non-renewables. Every little bit helps. Not the solution but a hugely positive step – particularly for air travel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Robert Alverson

    Biofuels from weeds do not pose a serious threat to food production. They grow on non-arable land they have 2 to 3 week turnover so you can get more than one crop per season. It is not a permanent solution but is a very good start to energy independence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Ray Pendergast

    A question for Dave + Chris — so what would be your solution to the situation? And the answer should be “we need to drive less, fly less, use less”. “alternative — offering or expressing a choice”= that is the thought process that should applied here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news John Boston

    American food manufacturers put high fructose corn syrup into most products instead of cane sugar due to insanely high tariffs we have on imported cane sugar. These tariffs are in place simply to keep the price of corn high.

    Corn syrup is one of the greatest threats to the health of the American people. Perhaps we should use corn for more biofuel , and less for food, and reduce the tariffs on incoming cane sugar to keep food production prices reasonable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Ibrahim Syaharuddin

    Biofuel industry development is becoming the mainstream development in the energy sector of the whole world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Eric Engler

    Perhaps we should grow more cane sugar in the USA.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alternative.energy.news Curtis Ping

    I feel that the problem with all these biofuels is that while we can get to europe faster, people in other countries starve.

  • http://www.bioworks.com.au Stuart Gunzburg

    Here are some fact about growing feedstocks for biofuels. Crops will grow on marginal land; whether they actually produce sufficient feedstock is questionable. Jatropha is a classic example of a weed that grows on marginal land, yet it yields are quite low when grown on this land. A recent publication in PNAS found that the water footprint of Jatropha was 20KL of water for one litre of oil. Soy was significantly less.

    Having grown mustard seed for use in biofuel production; you get out what you put in. You grown plants with no fertilizer, you end up with a lower yield than a fertilized crop. In summary there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    If you want a farmer to grow the crop then the yield must be financially viable compared to another crop. Farmers may be altruistic but they also understand economics. What we should be focusing on is turning waste streams into biofuel feedstocks. We currently treat industrial wastes from food processing and produce biodiesel and animal feed. There is more than enough crap floating around in the world for us to start processing into waste and I can proudly say my company is a significantly little crap converter.

  • Don Jumpsuit

    It is funny how Dave Yates and Chris Derudder are quick to jump in front of the speeding bus and decree BIOFUELS are not alt energy!!! Yet readily book plane tickets and pollute the delicate upper atmosphere with partially unburned kerosene and noxious fumes, were it is tremendously more harmful than from tailpipe emissions.

    Biofuels from corn made into ethanol may not be the answer for the average consumer who can easily buy a battery powered hybrid to replace their SUV guzzler, but in the age of jet planes, there is no suitable replacement for the energy required to generate the power required to lift a plane into the sky.

    Biofuels replacing diesel and kerosene make sense as they are a one to one conversion (most times from plant to tank without too much modification). In addition jets, planes, trains, tanks and trucks require more energy for combustion and have a longer replacement cycle than consumer vehicles making investments in alternatives to fossil fuels for these applications necessary, responsible and beneficial.

  • Boneheaded1

    Certainly not a cure all but if it can “refresh” the land for the food crops and have some other benefit besides, then what’s bad about it.

    There will be no ONE magic cure-all for our fossil fuel addiction. But it will take many different cures. Electric energy via; wind, solar, wave, tidal, geo-thermal and chemical energy via; ethanol, bio-diesel, bio-gas and bio-mass are ALL pieces of the puzzle. No single one will replace fossil fuels but together, they can make up the majority of our power source rather than the minority we see today. The sooner we can realize that and stop waiting for that one magic cure-all, the better the world will be and the faster we can keep our financial resources at home instead of sending it oversees.

    I understand the whole idea of economies of scale, but our energy production can no longer follow that rule. Use what can be produced locally, locally. If there is leftover to export, then export.

    And the food/fuels debate; let the market settle it. Too much money for food means less money for energy, to much for energy means less for food. A balance will be found.

  • Michelle Anchustegui

    I am working with a project that takes waste- garbage, animal waste sewage… and turns it into jet fuel, auto fuel, and power. This proven technology will relieve us completely of our dependency on foreign oil.

    The project is looking for investors- site visits and visits with the scientists that have created this are available.


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