Montana's U.S. senators announced Tuesday that they have secured the inclusion of an oilseed well-suited to Montana as a source for fuel in the nation's Renewable Fuel Standard — camelina, known in history as gold-of-pleasure.
Montana State University-Northern has been intensely researching using oil from the seed, that is well-suited to grow in north-central Montana, in the creation of biodiesel and aviation fuel. Northern recently patented a process to create all components of jet fuel using camelina oil.
Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced the inclusion of camelina to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires a percentage of fuel produced in the United States come from renewable sources, and that they have re-introduced their Freedom Fuels Act, which extends the time the U.S. military can enter into contracts to buy renewable fuels from five years to 10 years.
Greg Kegel, dean of Northern's College of Technical Sciences, said this morning that including camelina in the Renewable Fuels Standard is an important step in developing markets and encouraging producers to grow the seed.
"This is a step that had to be made," he said, adding, "We're really very. very happy that they were able to make this step.
"It's definitely going to help us in our efforts to get a reliable market for camelina," Kegel said.
The senators said Tuesday in a release that their Freedom Fuels bill, which they first introduced in 2010, also will help develop that market and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
"When it comes to energy, Montana has it all, and we need to give all Montana energy producers every opportunity to grow and support Montana jobs. Securing a stable market for Montana camelina is good for Montana jobs and good for American energy security," Baucus said. "The next step is to give our commanders greater flexibility to use home-grown energy, because powering our military with American-made energy, like Montana biofuel, makes our country safer and our economy stronger."
"Adding camelina to the Renewable Fuel Standard will increase our energy security and allow a marketplace for this Montana biofuel to develop," Tester said. "We need to keep encouraging homegrown energy sources, and our Freedom Fuels bill will help our military and the country take the next step toward energy independence."
And Northern is continuing to work on its projects creating a true drop-in fuel.
Kegel said at the Bear Paw Development Corp. annual meeting Feb. 15 that a company, which produces the expensive catalyst used in the process to create jet fuel, is in the last steps of licensing use of the patent, and that Northern soon will have jet engines installed on campus, donated to use in testing the fuel.
He said this morning that increasing the time the military can contract to buy alternative fuels will help in another major goal of Northern's research — making the fuel economical.
While the military is looking at buying U.S.-made fuel in terms of national security — and isn't as concerned with the cost — commercial companies need to look at the economy of the fuel.
But increasing demand, such as through military use, will help with that, Kegel said.
"It's a volume world," he said. "The more we do it, and at the bigger levels we do it, the more economical it becomes."