It probably sounds too “out-there” of an idea to take seriously ‒ imagine producing fuel from hemp? As strange and impractical as it might sound, research has found that hemp could very well be used to make sustainable diesel fuel, also known as biodiesel.
From Oil To Diesel
This research was authored by faculty from the University of Connecticut, and was published in late 2010. In a nutshell, the authors were able to produce biodiesel by using virgin hemp seed oil. This process was remarkably successful ‒ the authors reported that, by the end of the study, 97 percent of the hemp seed oil was converted into biodiesel.
This particular study was lead by Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering. In a UConn press release, Parnas noted that hemp’s ability to flourish in relatively barren soils is yet another reason to consider it as fuel source. “For sustainable fuels, often it comes down to a question of food versus fuel,” stated Parnas. “It’s equally important to make fuel from plants that are not food, but also won’t need the high-quality land.”
Fuel for the Whole Farm?
It bears mentioning that industrial hemp production is nothing new, at least in Asia and in certain parts of Europe. In fact, until the introduction of synthetic fibers in the middle of the 20th century, hemp was frequently used across the world to produce items such as rope and clothing.
Even today, hemp is still used in some regions to manufacture fiber for various products. However, the seeds released by hemp plants are frequently thrown out by farmers. Given that these seeds contain hemp oil, the UConn team believes this to be a major mistake, as these farmers might be unwittingly throwing out an excellent source of fuel.
“If someone is already growing hemp,” stated Parnas,“they might be able to produce enough fuel to power their whole farm with the oil from the seeds they produce.” The UConn professor also notes that the current presence of large-scale hemp production makes a potential hemp biodiesel industry a much more viable proposition, as the level of investment needed to achieve this goal would be relatively small.