GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) are working to ramp up the production of a crop that could be refined into renewable diesel and jet fuel.
The crop called carinata is said to be grown primarily as a sustainable source of non-edible oils, but can also serve as a high protein source for an animal feed once the oil is extracted.
"The oil from the seed is very adaptable to be used as a jet fuel or diesel or even gasoline," said UF/IFAS Carinata Researcher Dr. James Marois.
Marois adds that oil naturally produced from carinata is the only oil that can be used as 100-percent jet fuel. That possibility, he adds, has brought in interest from both the military and the aviation industry.
"The UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) in Quincy, Florida has been working to identify advanced carinata varieties that are high-yielding (seed and oil), disease-resistant, early-maturing, and adapted to the southeastern US," a press release reads.
The crop is seen as beneficial for additional environmental reasons, according to researchers. The winter crop could also lead to increased revenue for farmers and is considered to be a viable option for producers.
"Carinata has the potential to help meet renewable energy demands in the US and abroad without displacing feed and food crops," a press release reads.
News Service Florida reports, citing agriculture scientist Sheeja George who is leading research efforts on the crop, that oil and fatty acid found in carinata are part of what makes the crop "suitable to yield fuels.'
“It’s called a drop-in fuel, meaning you don’t have to do anything to the existing infrastructure for this fuel to work. You take today’s jet engine, and you can blend it with today’s petroleum, and boom, drop it into the engine and it will work,” George told the outlet during a demonstration Monday.
According to a press release, the IFAS study of carinata as a diesel and jet fuel solution started through a grant from the U.S. Navy and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.