Bio fuel created with the help of Romanians: biocerosene that can power planes

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The European Union’s requirements for protecting the environment and combating climate change have increased more and more in recent years. Fuels are an important part of targeted areas.

Romania participated with an important step in the creation of biokerosene, in order to transform the strategies of fuel use in aviation and transport.

A team of eight Romanian researchers – Sauca Florentina, Jurcoane Stefana, Dobre Paul, Matei Florentina, Podgoreanu Emanuela, Moraru Andra, Cristea Stelica and Cornea Calina Petruta – has developed a method of modifying camelina cultures to be used in production of biocerosene and biomass.

researchers from the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV) in Bucharest worked in partnership with experts from the BIOTEHGEN Research Center, to establish camellia cultivation technology and to obtain a new variety, approved in 2017 at the State Institute for Testing and Variety Registration – ISTIS, under the name of MADALINA.

This hybrid line was tested in six test centers over a period of three consecutive years 2014-2017. The biofuel has been available at Oslo Airport since January 22, 2016, used by Lufthansa Group, SAS and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

What is this plant with special uses?

Camelina [Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz] It is a perennial or winter plant, belonging to the Brassicacea family, native to Northern Europe and widespread in the United States and Canada.

Camelina seeds are very small, but the oil content of a seed is 35-38%, which makes them more effective than soybean seeds, which contain about 20% oil.

Into the camelina oil omega 6 fatty acids predominate in the proportion of 55-56% and omega 3 in the proportion of 11-12%.

Although the composition in polyunsaturated fatty acids makes camelina oil interesting even for food consumption, its stability is lower than that of ordinary edible oils from rapeseed, olives, corn, sesame or sunflower.

The oil extracted from camelina seeds is clear, golden and can have multiple uses: from the manufacture of paints and varnishes, to obtaining biopolymers and bioplastics, adhesives, antioxidants for the pharmaceutical industry, massage oils, natural cosmetics for the cosmetics industry or as biofuel .

The fact that camelina oil is not popular for food consumption makes it an interesting resource for use as a biofuel.

Interest in the use of biofuels from this plant in aviation stems from a series of studies showing that camelina-derived products promise a 60% to 80% reduction in environmental effects – especially by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cycle. life expectancy compared to their oil counterparts.

In order to exploit the property of camelina oil in the use of alternative fuels, the USAMV team obtained a new variety, adapted to the climatic conditions in Romania, with a high content of oil and unsaturated fatty acids.

The variety has already been used for the production of biocerosene used in flights by airlines such as Lufthansa Group, SAS and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and in the production of cosmetics and biopesticides.

Starting from genetic material from the local Romanian flora and from a well-known European variety, through the technique of immature embryos and random hybridizations, they were able to generate an adapted and improved variety.

The research took place within ITAKA program (Towards Sustainable Kerosene for Aviation Initiative), funded by the European Union’s Research Framework Program 7, and is the world’s first initiative to launch an entire continental stream of biocerosene production and use through normal feeding mechanisms.

Biokerosene was obtained by using camelina oil created in Spain and Romania

In 2011, a consortium – consisting of Tarom, Airbus, Honeywell’s UOP, CCS – the Spanish camelina production company, the Bucharest Faculty of Agronomy and the Biotechnology Center of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine – laid the foundations for one of the first European projects aimed at establishment of units for the production and processing of biofuels for air transport (biokerosen) obtained from camelina.

“During the years 2011 – 2012 we cultivated seven lots. Two in Călărași County, and one each in Arad, Argeș, Satu Mare, Dolj and Iași. Surprisingly, we recorded the best results in Iași and Satu Mare. ”
Prof.univ.dr. Stefan Jurcoane, dean of the year of the Faculty of Biotechnologies within the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Bucharest

According to her, camelina oil could not be processed in the country because refineries in Romania they have no hydrogenation facilities.

“The Steaua Româna refinery was initially selected to implement the process of transforming the oil into biokerosene, but we did not have the necessary support from the Ministry of Economy in this endeavor.”
Stefan Jurcoane

In 2011, 5,000 liters of camelina oil were obtained, and the processing by Honeywell’s UOP resulted in 3,000 liters of biocerosene, used in 2012 in Tarom flights.

Romanian airline, Tarom, has been employed since 2017 – and with a deadline of 2020 – to streamline the process of refueling its air fleet, using fuels from renewable sources, such as camelina.

Although the efforts of the Romanian team remain to some extent in the shadows – except for the awards obtained in 2018 in Geneva (Silver medal in Geneva – International Exhibition of Inventions 2018) and in Cluj-Napoca (Gold medal with special mention ProInvent) – the industry trend is beginning to pursue such initiatives to create alternative sources of fuel.

In October 2020, Green Fuel și INOCAS, Brazilian companies, have signed an agreement on the future production of sustainable fuel for the marine sector.

As signatories of the Biokerosene Platform and Renewables Zona da Mata – an integrated value chain of biofuels and reforestation promoted by the City of Juiz de Fora – Green Fuel and INOCAS will use macaúba – a species of palm – in intercropping techniques.

The agreement will also support fuel production for the energy and air and land transport sectors.

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