Biofuel Organisms - Camelina

Camelina is a genus of flowering plant that is widely considered to be a weed, at least partly because it suppresses growth of flax. Like many “weeds,” the beauty of Camelina is in the eye of the beholder and for biofuel manufacturers, the plants in this genus have some benefits.

Biofuel Properties

First of all, Camelina produces seeds that are 35 to 38% oil, making them almost as oil rich as Jatropha seeds. Camelina is also drought tolerant, requires few nutrients, and is easy to grow and harvest. What makes the plant stand out, however, is its ability to grow quickly in latitudes farther from the equator. While Jatropha is generally considered a tropical or subtropical plant, Camelina is a temperate plant and grows as far north as Germany and England.

Biofuel from Camelina has performed well in the settings in which it has been tested. The U.S. Airforce tested a 50/50 blend of petro jet fuel and Camelina-derived jet fuel in March 2012 with good results. The Air Force further tested another 100,000 gallons of the fuel in other applications as well. Unfortunately, given the current high cost of biofuels, interest from the military has waned.

Land Use

For Jatropha aviation fuel supply was used as a test for land area usage. The same can be done for Camelina. To supply the entire aviation injury with fuel made from Camelina would require about 2 million square kilometers, which is just slight less than the 2.7 million required for Jatropha. This means that Camelina is a more efficient biofuel crop. Of course, this pales in comparison to the 68,000 square kilometers that algae would need.