A fuel that is derived from ‘biomass’ -plant, algae material, or animal waste- is biofuel. We know that this feedstock material gets replenished on an almost daily basis, thus making it an important source of renewable energy. Very much unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, biofuel is commonly advocated as cost-effective and environmentally benign, which is a very big concern these days!
As a crop Hemp not only provides a remedy for polluted soil, but it also has proven to be a potential substitute for fossil fuels.
“The seeds from Cannabis Sativa, or Industrial Hemp, can be used to create a viable, sustainable diesel fuel.” says the research done at the University of Connecticut
According to it, two types of biofuels can be produced from the basic hemp plant, Biodiesel or Hempanol. The former is made from hemp seed oil and can be used in any conventional diesel engine. It is also worth noting that although it powers vehicles just like any other fuel, it helps clean the soil, hence leaving it in a better condition. Another fact that is differentiating is that hemp oil had a 97% conversion rate into biodiesel. Meanwhile, the rest of the plant can be used to produce ethanol or methanol. Sometimes referred to as “hempanol” or “hempoline” this type of fuel is made through a process called cellulolysis, which ferments and distills the hemp to extract ethanol. Methanol, on the other hand, is produced from the woody pulp matter in the stalks of plants by the process of distillation.
Advantages of Hempfuel
- This plant ingests carbon dioxide (CO2) very quickly, even faster than most of the trees. So, in addition to pulling toxins from the soil, the hemp plant can also clean CO2 from the air we breathe.
- This crop requires much less fertilizer to grow and gives the soil about 70% of its required nutrients back. Less amount of fertilizers can mean a lot of things including cleaner water supplies and better soil quality.
- Hemp is a cleaner fuel than soybean and rapeseed biodiesel fuels. This is demonstrated by a significantly lower sulphur content. It is also a safer fuel for handling, storing, and transporting due to its higher flashpoint.
- Hemp can be used for bioremediation, a process to restore soil from toxic pollution. Essentially, as a phytoremediator, hemp pulls the toxins out of the soil like a sponge. Farmers in other parts of the world use hemp to restore their fields.
Drawbacks of Hempfuel
- Hemp has a low seed per-acre yield. If we look at the numbers, an acre of hemp yields about 700 pounds of seeds, which may amount to as much as 1,200 pounds an acre in good years. Canola growers, on the other hand, can cash anywhere from 1,500 to 2,600 pounds an acre.
- Hemp biodiesel exhibits poor kinematic viscosity and oxidation stability. However, this can easily be improved with the use of additives.
- Legal challenges are a major obstacle in the way of wide-scale hemp biodiesel production. These challenges are also faced when trying to grow hemp for other industrial purposes. The good news is that with growing awareness, a lot of states in various countries are paving a way to make Hemp legal.
Why are we making the effort?
Everyone who is aware of means of transport knows that not only the problem with fossil fuel depletion is exacerbating, but also these fuels have made significant contributions to global warming. Unlocking a greener path to renewable fuels, which not only provides a valuable resource but also helps repair environmental damage in the process, has become a necessity. Fortunately, creating a green, environmentally-friendly Hemp Biofuel from the misunderstood and discriminated crop seems a viable option.