Sustainable Oils recently reported that an Air Force F-22 Raptor jet performed a successful test flight and, among other maneuvers, broke the sound barrier while cruising on a 50/50 blend of traditional, petroleum based jet fuel and Camelina-based biofuel. After the flight test, during which the jet reached Mach 1.5 without kicking in its afterburners, Jeff Braun, director of the Alternative Fuels Certification Division, cited that the blend caused “no noticeable performance differences” versus traditional JP-8 jet fuel.
Camelina Sativa, more commonly known as camelina, gold-of-pleasure or false flax, is only considered a “weed” in that it is not native to North America. It may have been brought over unintentionally with flax imports-no one seems to know for sure. What we do know is that it has tremendous potential as a source for bio-fuel. The plant requires very little water or nitrogen and doesn’t compete with food crops. In fact, it is often used in rotation with wheat crops to help regenerate soil and thrives in unirrigated fields where other crops won’t grow. What makes it particularly useful in the field of biofuels is that its seeds yield high quantities of oil (35-38% of the seeds is oil) which are exceptionally rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Sustainable Oils has developed a method that converts camelina oil into a biofuel. Since it completed development of its refinement process, the company has contracted with three branches of the US military to provide 500,000 gallons of the oil-based fuel. It has already been successfully tested in both commercial and military aircraft, but this most recent test perhaps serves as final proof that the fuel is flight-ready.
Also of note is that the plant remains rich in protein and has recently been approved by the USDA as livestock and poultry feed. A plant that requires little water to grow, actually replenishes soil and is 100% usable as both a bio-fuel and food? Not bad for a weed.