Path to Zero
Path to Zero
4.14 - Global Clean Energy’s Richard Palmer on Camelina: Is it the wonder crop for renewable fuels?

This episode features a deep discussion on the game-changing crop, Camelina, which is quickly becoming a popular feedstock for renewable fuels production. Tucker welcomes the head of the world’s leading developer of camelina. Richard Palmer is CEO of Global Clean Energy, which owns Sustainable Oils, a camelina breeding and production businesses in the U.S. Global Clean Energy also owns the largest camelina company in Europe, Camelina Company España S.L.

What is Camelina?

Camelina has been grown for centuries but recently the plant is gaining attention for biofuels because of the oil contained in its seeds. Camelina has one of the lowest carbon scores, with studies showing it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60% compared to petroleum fuel.

Global Clean Energy works with hundreds of farmers in the nation to grow camelina and holds the world’s largest camelina patent and IP protection portfolio. In addition to the upstream camelina business, Global Clean Energy owns a downstream refinery in Bakersfield, California. That plant is currently undergoing a retrofit to become a renewable fuels refinery to eventually process camelina into ultra-low carbon renewable fuels, including renewable diesel and renewable propane.

“The founders of our company were really at the very beginnings of renewable fuel development,” Palmer tells Tucker. “One of the things we were hyper-focused on was not using a food grade product to make fuel because of all the unintended consequences with food security.”

Benefits to Farmers

One of the many benefits to camelina is it is fast growing and requires less water than many other crops, so farmers can plant it between other crops. Camelina is also relatively pest and disease tolerant. It captures carbon not only above the ground, but also the roots don’t get harvested, which puts more carbon and organic material back into the soil.

Photo courtesy: Global Clean Energy

“We’re not asking farmers to plant our crop instead of another crop,” says Palmer. “We’re saying, plant our crop instead of no crop.”

Renewable Fuels Market

According to Palmer, the adoption and expansion of the renewable fuels market is highly dependent on feedstock availability. Most feedstocks for biofuels today are served by food products like ethanol, soybean oil and canola oil.

“By us showing that camelina is a highly scalable non-food feedstock as an option for renewable fuels, it continues to fuel interest,” says Palmer. “All we need is a large commercial adoption and we’ve proven the fact that camelina can be grown on large scale.”