Pennycress produces seeds with 36% oil, twice that of soybeans, and has a chemical composition that is ideally suited for conversion to biodiesel or green renewable jet fuel. In addition, the presscake biomass that remains after oil extraction can be used to produce other energy products.
Pennycress is grown as a non-food crop in the winter when mid-west cornbelt land is traditionally left bare between the fall corn harvest and before spring soybean planting. Approximately 40 million acres of land are available for production each year with this approach.
USDA research shows that 150 gallons of fuel can be made from a ton of seeds when using both the seed oil and presscake biomass indicating that Pennycress has the potential to produce about 6 billion gallons of liquid transportation biofuels per year. In the future yields are expected significantly increase thus raising the impact of this sustainable energy supply.
All of this can be accomplished without impact to the food supply while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting the environment and producing tremendous economic benefit to the rural economy.
The Department of Energy (DOE) defines “low impact crops” as agronomic crops that can be sustainably produced over an extensive geographic area of the U.S. at a cost that is competitive with other lipid producing crops. Such crops would require a minimum of water, fertilizer, pesticides, energy, and land area and be useful for producing high quality biodiesel fuel. Low impact crops would not be edible by humans and the production of such crops would not cause excessive soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, decrease in productivity in other rotational crops produced on the same land, or cause other environmental pollution or health hazards while requiring few inputs thus providing economic, environmental and social benefits.
Pennycress is perhaps the only crop that meets these requirements and can be implemented immediately without years of additional research and changes to the infrastructure of agriculture and transportation.