Hemp as Bio-Fuels

If we’re going to get serious about reducing carbon emissions then we’re going to have to have a serious look at bio-fuels.

Bio fuels are fuels produced directly or indirectly from organic materials like hemp.  The reasons we want more bio fuels as a source of energy for our homes, cars and industry are many, and are mind blowing.

A hemp farm

First, a little background

Farmers that grow hemp for seed and fibre will be doubly blessed as these are the primary organic ingredients needed for our two main types of fuel that can be made more environmentally friendly.  

Petroleum diesel for one, is dirty and sooty and anyone stuck behind a diesel truck in traffic on a hot summer day will tell you, it stinks!  Biodiesel made from hemp is a great alternative.  Made from the oil of pressed hempseed, there is a 97% conversion rate of the hemp oil to biodiesel.  Hemp seeds are typically 30-35% oil by weight and industry advocates estimate a yield of 300 gallons of oil per acre.  (1)

The good news for truckers and anyone driving a diesel, there is no engine conversion required to run on hemp biodiesel.  Any conventional, unmodified diesel engine can run on it.  Hemp biodiesel can extend the life of the diesel engine because it is more lubricating that petroleum diesel.  Best part is, it leaves the pleasant the smell of hemp, popcorn or french fries in their wake.  (2)  How divine!

As you would expect, that clean burning engine translates into emission savings to the environment.  Biodiesel is 11% oxygen by weight (2) and spews 50% less carbon monoxide, 30% less particulate matter, aka soot, sulfur dioxide emissions are essentially eliminated, it’s the main cause of acid rain,  a total hydrocarbon emissions reduction of 93%.  (3)  That’s impressive!!

A can of ..gas?

Ethanol or methanol (gasoline) is the other main type of fuel.  Hemp ethanol/methanol is made from fermented stalk.

Sugar and starches from the polysaccharides contained in the stock make ethanol, the woody fibrous matter makes a  methanol. Hemp can be used to make both.

Seems hemp is well suited for making ethanol and methanol.  The rich biomass and cellulose potential of hemp is four times higher than any of its rivals, cornstalk, sugarcane, trees, etc.  and can yield 10 tons of biomass per acre, in 4 months!  It’s estimated yields are 1000 gallons of methanol per acres of hemp.  (4)

A blend of 85% bioethanol and 15% petroleum ethanol showed a 37.1% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions (4) while reducing ground level ozone forming emissions, the emissions that react with sunlight and moisture that creates visible air pollution or smog.   (3)  Remember, we’re breathing this stuff in, with every inhalation.

The beautiful thing about growing hemp for fuel is the net zero effect of carbon emissions.  The carbon dioxide released from ethanol production and use is less than that absorbed by the hemp plants and soil matter used to produce the ethanol.  Win, win!  Even a 10% ethanol blended fuel results in a 6-10% net reduction of CO2.

Whether you believe greenhouse gases are responsible for changes to climate or not, we owe it to ourselves to pollute as little as possible.  Growing hemp on a massive scale result in a huge amount of CO2 being gobbled up.  Total carbon sequestered from hemp is estimated at 1.89 ton per hectare.  With carbon values trading all over the world to the tune of millions of dollars it makes financial sense for companies to get in the game.  Even oil companies.  

That could explain why my RRSP’s in green stocks performed better last year than any of the others.  Naturally, I did the smart thing and rolled them all into green portfolios.  At 6.5% compounded return, it’s way better than any old savings account, just saying.

So what’s been done so far.

Biofuels beaker and corn

Traditional oil companies looking to the future are few and far between.  I talking a future that includes clean air, clean water, oil spills that don’t keep us up at night seething, stopping the government sponsored takeover of First Nations territorial land in favour of petrol oil exploration, that kind of future.

A shout out to two oil companies who are getting their toes wet, Mobile Oil in conjunction with Georgia Tech University in the US are developing a catalytic process to make high octane gasoline from bio-methanol.  Also, Husky Oil in Canada currently has two ethanol plants in operation, Lloydminster, Alberta and Minnedosa, Manitoba.  They aren’t using hemp as the biofuel, too bad for them because they would make more money on carbon credits, but rather wheat crops that fail to make the grade it to market.  Non the less, each ethanol plant uses 350,000 tons of grain and produces130 million litres of ethanol.    

Unfortunately, the current government in Canada is not interested in exploring better ways to fuel our nation.  They have a single minded purpose, pumping more petroleum oil out of the ground is the answer to our economic growth.  It’s sad that the government of the day has missed an outstanding opportunity to turn the corner, missed the opportunity to provide energy security for our nation through good stewardship of our natural resources.  It could cost them the next election and rightfully so.  


(1) https://www.change.org/p/let-american-farmers-grow-hemp

(2) http://www.hemp.com/hemp-education/uses-of-hemp/hemp-fuel

(3) http://www.hempcar.org/petvshemp.shtml

(4) http://www.hemphasis.net/Fuel-Energy/fuel.htm