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Jets test fuel from new oilseed

Jets are expected to make test flights this year using biofuel produced from Brassica carinata, a new oilseed in the mustard family grown in Western Canada last year.

The fuel will come from 50 acres of production last summer, but Agrisoma, the company advancing the crop and its industrial applications, plans to contract 5,000 to 10,000 acres this year.

Patrick Crampton, vice-president of business and product development for Agrisoma, told Saskatchewan mustard growers at Crop Production Week that processors tested seed from 2011.

The yellow coated, low fibre seed, also known as Ethiopian mustard, performed well at crushing plants. The oil was sent to interested aviation fuel makers.

“We are basically working with two of the major producers out there,” Crampton said.

“One is Honeywell-UOP, which has the current registered technology.… They just finished production last week and we are going to have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800 to 1,000 litres of jet fuel produced.”

He expects test flights by military and commercial jets will be announced later this year.

“It is a key part of the development of a new market, where it is not just a new crop. It is an entirely new value chain.”

The oil is processed in a different way than for biodiesel and must produce jet fuel that is indistinguishable from the petroleum-based product to meet airline specifications.

The aviation industry is pursuing plant-based feedstocks for renewable fuels with a smaller carbon footprint. Biofuel made from jatropha, camelina and animal fat are already undergoing flight tests.

Carinata’s oil is high in erucic acid ideal for industrial applications such as jet fuel.

The crop, which is native to Ethiopia, is suited to the hotter, drier areas of the Prairies and has been in Agriculture Canada research and breeding programs for more than a decade.

Carinata maturity was three weeks later than a mid-season Argentine canola when scientists first started working with it, but they were able to reduce it to only five to seven days later.

Agrisoma, which has been co-operating with Agriculture Canada, the Plant Biotechnology Institute and the Mustard 21 project, will use its gene altering technology to enhance the oil profile and yield.

“The vision is to put the biotechnology in longer term, but we are focused on launching the conventional crop right now,” Crampton said.

“Even though it is an industrial crop, we know we need to pursue full food and safety registration for the GM product. We are committed to not jeopardizing other markets. The emerging low level presence legislation that is being developed worldwide is a key factor to that launch.”

Agrisoma will have contracts in a few weeks that are designed to attract 5,000 to 10,000 acres of production by 30 to 50 farmers.

It is working with Paterson Grain on the identity preserved closed loop contracts.

The payment will be $12.50 per bushel on farm plus an incentive of $40 per acre.

Last year it was grown in three Saskatchewan locations: Kincaid, Frontier and Scott.

“The small plot yield data shows the elite line we are bringing out is 15 to 20 percent higher yield than the oriental mustard checks,” Crampton said.

The crop’s commercial success will be enhanced if there is a market for the meal left over after crushing.

Traditional mustard types produce meal that has quality protein but suffers from high glucosinolate levels that hurt its use in livestock feed rations.

“Carinata is not truly a condiment type, spicy mustard. It is kind of midrange,” Crampton said.

“It is similar to what rapeseed originally was, which had 10 percent inclusion rates for a number of livestock species, so there is a fair bit of excitement for this meal.”

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