Researchers Work to Produce Fuel from Field Pennycress

Researchers Work to Produce Fuel from Field Pennycress

Published on: Nov 10, 2010

Results of tests conducted at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, suggests that biodiesel made from the seeds of field pennycress is better suited for use in cold climates than many other biodiesel fuels, such as soybean oil-based biodiesel. Pennycress is an overwintering crop, so farmers could produce pennycress and maintain their usual summer soybean production without reducing crop yields.

All diesel-based oils start to gel when it's cold enough. So the cloud point, which is the temperature at which crystals become visible in the fuel, is a crucial factor in both biodiesel and petrodiesel production. Another important property is the pour point, the temperature at which the fuel fails to pour as a result of excessive solidification. Researchers found the average cloud and pour points for field pennycress biodiesel were 14 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively - well below the cloud and pour points of soybean oil-based biodiesel.

So far, the finished biodiesel was tested to see if it met the biodiesel fuel standard established by the American Society for testing and Materials. The results suggested that, with some work, the previously problematic pennycress could become a commercial commodity. A common roadside plant, field pennycress belongs to the same family as canola, camelina and mustard, all prolific producers of oil-rich seeds.