Blue Sun Biodiesel to commercialize camelina

By Erin Vogele | July 14, 2008
Web exclusive posted July 29, 2008 at 11:42 a.m. CST

Golden, Colo.-based Blue Sun Biodiesel has earned a $41,059 Advancing Colorado's Renewable Energy Program grant from the state to commercialize camelina for use as a biodiesel feedstock. Blue Sun Biodiesel will contribute an additional $12,910 to the project.

Camelina, also known as wild flax or false flax, has traditionally been cultivated as an oilseed crop to produce vegetable oil and animal feed. The crop has low requirements for tillage and weed control, which gives it the potential to be produced at a lower cost than traditional oil crops and makes it attractive to biodiesel producers. Camelina is well suited to marginal soil, can withstand cold temperatures and produces good yields when planted early, from February 1 to March 30.

"Camelina is part of the next step for biodiesel," said Sean Lafferty, Blue Sun Biodiesel's vice president of technology. "It is a non-food crop, and it can be grown on land unsuitable for most other crops. Camelina is a good rotation crop as well and it can survive low and variable rainfall conditions, reducing risk for the farmer."

Blue Sun Biodiesel will use the ACRE grant to develop camelina production practices by conducting water use efficiency trials, fertility experiments, date of planting studies and observing on-farm production. A spring camelina production guide, scheduled to be released near the end of the year, will provide farmers with information on the best date to plant the crop, the recommended seed rate per acre, fertility, water use efficiency, as well as planting and harvesting methods.

Blue Sun Biodiesel is actively breeding spring and winter camelina to develop superior regionally adapted camelina cultivars. The company's spring camelina variety, Cheyenne, has been commercialized and is available for purchase. To date, the company has sold about 100 bags of Cheyenne. Three Colorado farmers are currently using the Cheyenne product to produce biodiesel on a farm-scale level.

"We're excited that we can lead the change to the next-generation of biodiesel sources, making biodiesel a permanent part of the energy solution in the U.S.," said Mike Miller, Blue Sun Biodiesel's president and chief operating officer.

Taking camelina from an experimental oilseed crop to a commercial biodiesel feedstock could have a significant impact on the Colorado economy and provide an additional sustainable energy option for the United States. Data from a federal energy lab projects an additional $2.67 in rural economic activity for every additional gallon of biodiesel capacity in our nation. In rotation with winter wheat, Colorado's dryland farming regions have the potential to add nearly 30 million gallons of capacity, or approximately $80 million in rural economic activity.
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