Fuel is one of the most integral parts of society’s infrastructure, being used by almost every industry in some capacity. However, at current rates of consumption, it’s estimated that we have approximately 45-50 years of crude oil left. It’s pretty clear that we need a sustainable solution to this problem, and this is where Hemp Biodiesel comes in.

Biodiesel is a type of diesel fuel created from fatty acids that are derived from plants and animals. Since it’s a form of diesel, it can be used in already existing diesel engines, making it a sensible replacement for standard diesel fuel. While adopting newer technologies is very appealing, the cost of replacing existing infrastructure on a large scale means it isn’t always a possibility.

There are many benefits of using hemp to produce biodiesel. It has a high oil to fuel conversion rate, high fuel yields, it’s a versatile and robust crop, and cultivating it has some environmentally beneficial effects. Let’s take a look at some other crops used to produce biodiesel and see how hemp stands up.

Currently, the leading crops for biodiesel production are canola, soybean, and oil palm. Hemp has a fuel yield of approximately 784L per hectare, compared to canola at 386L, soybean at 210L, and oil palm at 871L[1]. This means that compared to canola and soybean, hemp requires less than half the amount of land to produce the same amount of fuel.

Although oil palm has a higher fuel yield than hemp, it is much more limited in its growing conditions and uses, and cannot be cultivated in most climates. Hemp on the other hand can be grown in a wide variety of climates and environments, making it a much more practical crop than oil palm in many parts of the world. In fact, the hemp plant is a phytoremediator, meaning it can stabilize unfertile soils and restore important nutrients back into the soil, allowing the use of more optimal land for farming other crops. The hardiness of hemp also makes it inexpensive and relatively easy to cultivate, resulting in a more economically viable solution than most forms of biodiesel production.

While yields and growing conditions are important, another major factor in fuel production is its environmental impact. Sulfur oxides, being one of the primary pollutants in diesel fuel, are a vital thing to measure when gaging its environmental effects. Biodiesels generally have extremely small amounts sulfur compared to standard diesel, which is part of what makes them more environmentally friendly. Hemp biodiesel, however, has some of the lowest sulfur content of any biodiesel. It has roughly 50% less sulfur than soybean, 80% less sulfur than canola, and over 90% less sulfur than oil palm[2]. This means its one of the cleanest biodiesels among the leading competition.

Another environmental concern regarding fuels are their carbon dioxide emissions. No matter what, burning fuels will always produce carbon dioxide, but the hemp plant is unique in that it has significant carbon sequestering properties. Hemp can absorb up to 15 tonnes of CO2 per acre cultivated, allowing the plants themselves to diminish the carbon footprint of the fuel they produce. Because of this, hemp biodiesel is considered a carbon neutral alternative for standard diesel fuel.[3]

Aside from all the great sustainable advantages of producing biodiesel from hemp is that it only requires oil from the seeds, allowing the crop to be harvested and used for other purposes. While there is a large range of practical applications for industrial hemp, in regards to producing biofuel it has a very distinct benefit over other crops. The hemp plant is one of the few plants that produces a high yield in both oil and biomass. While the oil can be used to produce biodiesel, the biomass can be used to produce bioethanol, another environmentally friendly biofuel. When this is coupled with the fact that hemp outproduces almost every other crop in biodiesel, it becomes quite clear that industrial hemp has the potential to be a disruptor in clean energy.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

[1] Ashak Mahmud Parvez, Jonathan David Lewis, Muhammad T. Afzal. Potential of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) for bioenergy production in Canada, Challenges and Outlook 2021

[2] Ibid

[3] Ahmad Alcheikh. Advantages and Challenges of Hemp Biodiesel Production: A Comparison of Hemp vs Other Crops Commonly Used for Biodiesel Production