Camelina-based biofuel producer Sustainable Oils has opened an expanded camelina research facility in Bozeman with the goal of delivering improved camelina varieties to growers even more quickly. Sustainable Oils’ research team moved into the new location in March and has already planted its 2010 research and breeding crop in the adjacent research fields.
(Sustainable Oils provided the hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) fuel used to create the 50-50 HRJ8-JP8 blend used in the recent all-engine biofuel flight test in a US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II. Earlier post.)
The new facility doubles Sustainable Oils’s laboratory and office space. It includes a seed processing lab where researchers can analyze camelina seeds for their oil and protein content. The company also planted 20 acres of camelina in its breeding nursery and field testing plots this spring, nearly double the acreage planted in 2009.
Sustainable Oils has the most extensive camelina research program in North America, spanning from our breeding nurseries in Montana and Arizona, to laboratories in Seattle and Saskatoon, and field testing across seven states and three provinces. Our new facility allows us to better connect the best-in-class science from the research laboratories with elite germplasm testing in our breeding program.—Jack Kiser, research manager for Sustainable Oils
The company’s camelina breeding program began in 2005 and has steadily expanded to include more than 32 sites within the US and Canada in 2009. These sites included seven states and three provinces. The research program has three primary components: camelina breeding and selection, camelina field testing, and research and development.
At present, more than 1,900 experimental lines derived from 120 breeding populations, or pools of genetic material, are available to identify and select superior elite lines that will ultimately result in new, improved camelina varieties for farmers. Each breeding population is evaluated for agronomic characteristics, grain yield, oil yield and oil quality attributes.
In addition to the Bozeman location, Sustainable Oils conducts breeding and research work at a research center in Yuma, Arizona. The company also does off-season, or winter research, at locations in Chile. Utilizing winter breeding nursery and research locations allows Sustainable Oils to develop superior products more quickly because it can grow multiple crops in a single year instead of just one growing season in Montana. The Yuma and Chile locations also allow Sustainable Oils to test and develop camelina varieties that can better tolerate heat and drought stress.
Earlier this year, Sustainable Oils was the first company to export camelina seed winter-produced in Chile back to the United States. This seed is from our most elite cultivars and has been planted in our seed production plots this season for growers to plant next season.—Jack Kiser
Sustainable Oils invests in a number of agronomic studies with university researchers to identify best management practices and crop production practices for camelina. These researchers are experts on local growing conditions and crop rotation options and are focusing their efforts on key camelina production issues such as weed control, crop rotation, and input requirements.
Sustainable Oils is also conducting research on the various co-products that result of processing harvested camelina seed into oil for biofuels. About 60 to 70% of the weight of the harvested grain is camelina meal, which can be fed to livestock. Sustainable Oils is working to establish co-product safety with the FDA and to determine the best practices for optimizing the value and sustainability of all co-products derived from the oil production process.
A joint venture between Targeted Growth, Inc., a renewable energy bioscience company, and Green Earth Fuels, a vertically integrated biodiesel energy company, Sustainable Oils is focused on the continued research and development of dedicated energy crops such as camelina.