Brassica carinata is a tiny, inedible seed which produces oil that can be turned into renewable jet fuel according to University of Florida researchers. Additionally, the seed can produce other valuable bioproducts and feed for livestock.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences a $15 million grant to further the research.
David Wright, project lead and professor in the UF/IFAS agronomy department, has led studies to maximize production of carinata, which have initiated large-scale production of the crop in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
“We found that the plant is a good fit into existing agricultural infrastructure, and, there is a strong market demand for numerous fuel bioproducts as well as seed meal.
“Our research shows that carinata grows well in the winter when fields are often fallow after cotton, corn, soybean or peanut, and is economically competitive – giving growers the opportunity to make a profit on their farms during winter months,” said Wright who also heads the Southeast Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC).
The SPARC team is comprised of scientists from several Southeast U.S. universities, government agencies, industry (Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., and Applied Research Associates Inc.), and a consortium representing the commercial aviation industry. The military and commercial aviation industries are interested in renewables due to national security, their commitment to environmental stewardship and potential incentives from carbon credits.
“Our goal is to commercialize carinata to produce jet fuel and feed for livestock, while mitigating risks along the entire supply chain,” Wright said. “We want to create a product that is environmentally beneficial, cost-effective and easily produced.”
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Once carinata oilseed is crushed and filtered, it requires a minimal amount of refining. The seed does not have to be blended with petroleum-based fuel, said Ian Small, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS plant pathology department and SPARC deputy project director. “Carinata provides a renewable source for jet fuel and an alternative to petroleum-based jet fuels, which are not produced from renewable sources,” Small said.
On October 29, 2012 a Dassault Falcon 20 twin engine jet took off from Ottawa, making a 90 minute round-trip flight to Montreal. The fuel which powered the jet was made from 100% carinata oilseed.
A chase plane monitored the air quality of the exhaust from the Falcon 20’s engines, and several engineers were on-board to monitor the engine’s performance. It was the first time a jet aircraft was powered by an unblended, renewable fuel meeting petroleum jet fuel specifications.