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Oilseed Crops for Biodiesel Production

Do you know that energy in the oil from oilseed crops, algae, restaurant waste oil, and animal fat can serve as a biodiesel feedstock? This article explores many feedstocks that make oil, which can be used in biodiesel production.

Harvesting soybeans in Nebraska. Photo: F. John Hay, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

Contents

Oilseed Crops for Biodiesel Production

Biodiesel can be produced from a wide variety of oilseed crops and animal fats. In Europe, rapeseed oil is the major biodiesel feedstock. In the United States, soybeans are the dominant biodiesel feedstock.

Soybeans

Soybeans produce approximately 1.5 gallons of oil per bushel. U.S. farmers produced a record-breaking yield in 2009 of 44 bushels per acre. This translates to an oil yield of 66 gallons per acre. Soybean oil is a co-product with soybean meal, a popular high-protein feed for animals. Although soybeans do not produce as much oil per acre as other crops, such as canola or rapeseed, soy oil is the most popular oil in the United States. It is commonly grown as a rotation crop with corn. The United States has an established infrastructure to process soybeans into oil and meal.

Rapeseed and Canola

Rapeseed and canola produce about 75 to 240 gallons of oil per acre. They are excellent rotation crops because they have deep root systems that scavenge well for water and nutrients. These crops use planting and harvesting equipment similar to what is used for small-grain production, and the meal commands high prices in the feed market.

Mustard

Mustard, a relative of canola and rapeseed, has also been shown to be an excellent cover crop with high potential as a biodiesel feedstock. Although it produces less oil than canola, it is drought tolerant, grows well on marginal soils, and contains compounds that act as natural fumigants against soil pathogens.

Camelina

Camelina is a relative of mustard and rapeseed. Camelina can potentially be grown at a lower cost compared to rapeseed because it does not require as much fertilizer or pesticides. Researchers in the Pacific Northwest have been growing and studying camelina.

Sunflower field in full flower in Vermont. Photo: Vern Grubinger, Professor, University of Vermont Extension.

Safflower and Sunflower

Safflower and sunflower both produce oil that can be used for biodiesel, although these oils tend to be more highly prized as premium cooking oils.

Warm Climate Feedstocks

Tropical oilseed trees such as oil palm and coconut are used as biodiesel feedstocks in some parts of the world. Other warm climate feedstocks, such as jatropha, croton, candlenut, and tallow tree, are also being researched as biodiesel feedstocks. In most cases, these plants grow wild and are well adapted to their environments. However, they have yet to be domesticated, so little information is available about diseases and insect pests that could cause problems when plants are grown in high density.

Jatropha

A 114-page report published in 2010 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations emphasizes that the versatility of jatropha may make it useful in poor, remote areas of the world. This article summarizes the FAO report.

Castor Bean

A major constraint for using castor oil as a feedstock for biodiesel is the high price castor oil commands as an industrial and pharmaceutical feedstock. Castor oil boasts high lubricity characteristics, so biodiesel derived from castor oil could achieve the required lubricity for biodiesel standards at concentrations much lower than that of rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) or soybean (Glycine max L.). However, castor oil’s high viscosity may limit its use to lower percentages in biodiesel blends or to warm climates.

Potential Oilseed Crops

In addition to the main oilseed crops listed above, several plants are currently being researched as biodiesel feedstocks. Lesquerella and pennycress, both relatives of mustard, show promise as oilseed crops.

Hazelnuts could prove to be a cost-effective, productive new biodiesel feedstock, if current disease problems can be overcome. The tree is adapted to less productive soil and produces a high quantity of oil — about 90 gallons per acre.

In addition to oil seed crops, biodiesel can be produced from

Used and waste oil

Waste oil and grease can be collected from restaurants to produce biodiesel. While the processing costs of this urban source are higher per gallon than the processing costs of virgin vegetable oil, the cost of the feedstock is generally low and sometimes free.

Animal Fats

Animal fats are low-cost biodiesel feedstocks. However, there are some drawbacks and challenges to animal fat feedstocks.

Algae

Microalgae have long been recognized as potentially good sources for biofuel production because of their relatively high oil content and rapid biomass production. There are production challenges which need to be overcome for successful commercialization.

Feedstock Yields and Prices for Biodiesel

How do common biodiesel feedstocks compare in terms of yield and prices? This chart gathers information from many different sources to allow readers to compare feedstock yields, oil yields, biodiesel yields, and prices of oil and commodities.

For Additional Information

  • Feedstocks for Biofuel Production
  • Oilseed Handling for Biodiesel Production
  • Feedstock and Biodiesel Characteristics Report. This 136-page report from Renewable Energy Group evaluates 36 feedstocks and the biodiesel produced from them. If the link above does not work, please cut and paste this URL: http://www.regfuel.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Feedstock%20and%20Biodiesel%20Characteristics%20Report.pdf
  • Clean Energy Farming: Cutting Costs, Improving Efficiencies, Harnessing Renewables. Covers a wide range of “clean energy” topics related to farming, including growing oilseed crops for biodiesel. Published by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.
  • Energy Independence: On-Farm Biodiesel Fuel Production — a 16-minute video about a Vermont farmer who produces biodiesel for on-farm use from sunflowers and canola seeds that he grows himself.
  • Expanding the Feedstock Portfolio. This article in Biodiesel magazine covers alternative feedstocks such as camelina, pennycress, croton tree, and tallow tree.
  • Weird Feedstocks for Biodiesel — this blog entry explores biodiesel made from unusual and even bizarre feedstocks.
  • Camelina: Food Supplement, Gourmet Salad Oil, Weed Suppressant, Biofuel Feedstock — an interview with Rene Featherstone of Lentz Spelt Farms in Marlin, WA, which has been experimenting with camelina for multiple uses. This bloTh

Contributors to this Article

  • Diana Friedman, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
  • Jon Van Gerpen, Professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, National Biodiesel Education Program, University of Idaho

Peer Reviewers

  • Joe Thompson, Research Support Scientist, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, National Biodiesel Education Program, University of Idaho
  • Dennis Pennington, Bioenergy Educator, Michigan State University Extension

Oilseed Crops for Biodiesel Production Do you know that energy in the oil from oilseed crops, algae, restaurant waste oil, and animal fat can serve as a biodiesel feedstock? This article

Biodiesel production from seed oil of Cleome viscosa L

Affiliation

  • 1 School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. [email protected]
  • PMID: 22822531

Biodiesel production from seed oil of Cleome viscosa L

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Authors

Affiliation

  • 1 School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. [email protected]
  • PMID: 22822531

Abstract

Edible oil seed crops, such as rapeseed, sunflower, soyabean and safflower and non-edible seed oil plantation crops Jatropha and Pongamia have proved to be internationally viable commercial sources of vegetable oils for biodiesel production. Considering the paucity of edible oils and unsustainability of arable land under perennial plantation of Jatropha and Pongamia in countries such as India, the prospects of seed oil producing Cleome viscosa, an annual wild short duration plant species of the Indogangetic plains, were evaluated for it to serve as a resource for biodiesel. The seeds of C. viscosa resourced from its natural populations growing in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi areas of Aravali range were solvent extracted to obtain the seed oil. The oil was observed to be similar in fatty acid composition to the non-edible oils of rubber, Jatropha and Pongamia plantation crops and soybean, sunflower, safflower, linseed and rapeseed edible oil plants in richness of unsaturated fatty acids. The Cleome oil shared the properties of viscosity, density, saponification and calorific values with the Jatropha and Pongamia oils, except that it was comparatively acidic. The C. viscosa biodiesel had the properties of standard biodiesel specified by ASTM and Indian Standard Bureau, except that it had low oxidation stability. It proved to be similar to Jatropha biodiesel except in cloud point, pour point, cold filter plugging point and oxidation stability. In view of the annual habit of species and biodiesel quality, it can be concluded that C. viscosa has prospects to be developed into a short-duration biodiesel crop.

Edible oil seed crops, such as rapeseed, sunflower, soyabean and safflower and non-edible seed oil plantation crops Jatropha and Pongamia have proved to be internationally viable commercial sources of vegetable oils for biodiesel production. Considering the paucity of edible oils and unsustainabilit …