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Analysis of camelina-based jet fuel shows emissions reductions

A test flight of a Japan Airlines plane earlier this year using camelina-based fuel, has shown an 84 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and opened the potential for increased camelina production.


April 29, 2009
By Sustainable Oils

April 29, 2009

Bozeman, Montana -Renewable fuels company Sustainable Oils today announced the results of a life cycle analysis (LCA) of jet fuel created from camelina seeds developed by the company, which shows that the renewable fuel reduces carbon emissions by 84 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel. The research, in collaboration with UOP, a Honeywell company, was conducted at Michigan Tech University, a leading research university. The study was based on camelina grown in Montana and processed into biojet fuel using UOP hydroprocessing technology.
“The quickest way to reduce carbon emissions from aviation is to begin replacing petroleum fuel with fuel made from renewable and sustainable camelina oil,” said 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. Our success this year in planting thousands of acres of camelina specifically for this use 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.”
Camelina is well suited to be a sustainable biofuel crop, as it naturally contains high oil content; its 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 also grow in marginal land. Camelina 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.

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“Camelina is one of the most promising sources for renewable fuels that we’ve seen,” said Billy Glover, managing director, Environmental Strategy, 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.”

“The data shows the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions of using camelina in this manner is 84 percent,” said Professor David Shonnard, Robbins Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech University. “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.”

Sustainable Oils has just completed its 2009 contracting season working closely with farmers to maximize oil production per acre. The company expects to deliver most of its 2009 production for use as a biojet fuel feedstock.