Green and yellow straw from oilseed, another viable source of biofuel?



Rapeseed (Brassica napus), also known as oilseed, is cultivated mainly for its oil-rich seeds [1]. However, seeds are not the only part of this plant that has raised the interest of scientists and researchers. A group of researchers at the Institute of Food Research are currently looking at how to turn straw from oilseed rape into viable bio-fuel.

Only in the UK, a total of 12 million tonnes of straw are produced every year [2], this can give you an idea of the potential that this plant has. The process of producing bio-ethanol is simple, the different types of sugars found on the straw after being pre-treated and made accessible to enzymes are converted by these ones into bio-ethanol.

The biofuels widely available today are predominantly sugar- and starch-based bio-ethanol, and oilseed- and waste oil-based biodiesel [3]. Image: See credits below under reference 


Family: Brassicaceae

Genus: Brassica

Common name: rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed [1].



The use of environmentally-friendly biofuels is increasing, or, at least, the interest on it. With the limited resources left among the existing fossil fuels, the search for other potential alternative solutions to that is even promoted by governments and private institutions, the firsts by means of measures to promote their use as renewable fuel mandates, tax incentives, and direct funding for capital projects or fleet upgrades [3].

Not so long ago, a team of researchers, led by Kansas State University Distinguished Professor of Grain Science and Industry, Xiuzhi "Susan" Sun was awarded  USD 5 million to study oilseed camilina as biofuel feedstock [2].

There is, of course, a direct link between the successful production of some of the bio-fuels and government funding as tax exemptions, see for example the case of states as Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota where bio-ethanol production is really a success [3].

Other factors as biomass availability, industry and demand play also a very important role on this. Studies have also been done in other sources of bio-fuels as for example poplars.

Let's hope other states and governments around the world start also promoting the use of these environmentally-friendly biofuels.



[1] Wikipedia article on Rapeseed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; 
[2] K-State-Led Research Team Awarded $5.08 Million To Study Oilseed Camelina as Biofuel Feedstock 
[3] Policy options to support biofuel production. Mabee WE.
[4] Pixibay image under Public Domain License CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) License.