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Startup Focuses on Field Pennycress as a Biodiesel Crop

An Illinois start-up, Biofuels Manufacturers of Illinois (BMI), is targeting the use of field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), also known as stinkweed, as a biodiesel crop.

Field pennycress, a member of the mustard family, is an invasive weed that is now pervasive throughout North America. The plant contains sufficient quantities of glucosinolates to be toxic, according to the Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility. During dry periods, cattle in western Canada have ingested hay containing high quantities of stinkweed, with resulting poisoning, death and abortion. Field pennycress seed, however, is 36-40% wt oil—about twice that of soybeans.

A 2008 study by Terry Isbell at the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) examined wild pennycress seed and found 36% oil with the major fatty acid as erucic at 38.1%, and an iodine value of 115. Isbell concluded that the physical properties of the methyl esters indicated that continued development of the oil as a biodiesel is warranted. The USDA ARS currently has further studies on pennycress ongoing through 2010.

BMI saw the first commercial harvest of pennycress recently in central Illinois. BMI anticipates that it could break ground as soon as August on a 45 million gallon per year biodiesel plant if approved for Illinois loan guarantees.



This has got to be some kind of niche project....the economics of miscanthus and sweet sorghum are much better than pennycress. There are mass amounts of miscanthus projects in the works across the midwest and southeast for ethanol and pellets for powerplants instead of using coal.


Squeeze the oil out of the seeds and turn the residue as well as the rest of the weed into butanol.



no it is not a niche market this is a rotational crop that you can use between wheat crop so it is huge, and again Oil has twice the enregy content of ethanol so can be used for aircraft for example when ethanol can not. a given volume of Biodiesel burned in a diesel engine can almost 3 yield time the energy of the same volume of ethanol burned in an otto engine.

John Gallant

The true benefits of pennycress are that it out-produces most other oilseeds in oil production, it also ELIMINATES the food-for-fuel argument, as it is produced as an insertion crop. This means that it does not displace food producing crops, because it grows in a period of time that the ground is traditionally unused. Another benefit of Pennycress is that it requires no fertilizer, and grows well in poor soil conditions.

If you are interested, a link to pennycress information can be found on my site.



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