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NDSU to Test Properties of Canola-Based Biodiesel


Researchers at North Dakota State University are beginning to test the properties of canola oil based-biodiesel.

The team will begin powering three tractors with a B20 blend using biodiesel derived from canola oil to measure exhaust, horsepower and affects on fuel system and engine components, then move to a B100 blend. 

The project comes shortly after North Dakota Biodiesel announced it will build a 100,000 ton per year biodiesel plant in Minot, and will use canola as the feedstock. (Earlier post.)

Most commercial biodiesel in the US comes from soybeans. By contrast, most European biodiesel is produced from rapeseed (the parent plant of canola)—some 40% of the European rapeseed crop went to biodiesel production in 2004.

More precisely, rapeseed is a member of the Brassica genus, and as such is related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Canola is a cultivar (a cultivated variety of plant species) of rapeseed, developed in Canada in the 1970s and designed be a low-acid, high-value oil and protein crop. (Canola= Canadian oil, low acid)

Canola oilseeds are high in oil content (40%), while soybeans have an 18% oil content. From a processors’s point of view, the higher oil content leads to higher yields.

It is still a relatively new crop, and appears to grow the best in the US in the Northern Plains. (Hence, North Dakota) There were a series of research projects undertaken some 10 years ago exploring the performance of canola-based biodiesel in the US, but apparently little recently.

The differences between the characteristics of rapeseed and canola biodiesel should be slight, if at all. But the studies should be useful.



john mcconnell

I understand in Europe hemp is legal go grow. After reading about how easy it is to grow hemp with little chemicals, I'm curious if this would be a good crop for biodiesel when considering the full field to fuel cycle. I thought Mr. Diesel himself originally used hemp in his diesel engine.

Anyone know the story on hemp and it's future bio-diesel use?


According to past statements from the National Biodiesel Board, hemp biodiesel is a “novelty product”, while biodiesel is not. So the NBB is staying away from the topic.

A few documents (Swiss research, Seedtec) indicate that hemp produces significantly less oil yield per hectare than rapeseed/canola.

I think it was the original Ford who was all pumped up about hemp.

One benefit...we could get away from all those stories about the smell of french fries associated with biodiesel use...

Vic Verghese

I think any crop whose oil can be used for edible purposes will have problems with being used for biodiesel, owing to sustainability, and canola could fall in this category as well

A site you might want to have a look at for more crops being considered for biodiesel is The Biodiesel Encyclopedia

Vic, BPO

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