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Sale of Bozeman company could ramp up biofuel research

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 20 2013 07:02:15 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 20 2013 07:02:32 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Sustainable Oils started strong.  They began studying camelina six years ago but like many start-ups, the business was expensive and didn't develop as quickly as they'd hoped, so they scaled back.

And now?

"We really anticipate the opportunity to scale up," says Sustainable Oils President and General Manager Scott Johnson.

Johnson says after Congress approved camelina as biofuel feed and longer contracts with the military, it triggered customers to come back and caught the attention of companies like Global Clean Energy Holdings.

"We have the chance to develop long-term, off-take agreements with our customers so we can assure our farmers we're going to be there year after year," explains Johnson.

Now, under a new company, with a market for not only the biofuel but also the by-product, folks with Sustainable Oils say they're looking forward hiring more workers, gearing up research and talking with farmers about production next year.

"We're really anticipating we'll have a lot of demand," says Johnson.

I sat down with experts at MSU to find out the importance of this small seed.

Researchers like Alice Pilgrim first worked on preliminary camelina research and now are looking at more uses for the meal.  

She tells me it's a profitable crop that can be used to supplement wheat production and grows well in Montana. Camelina can be planted and harvested using traditional wheat equipment.

That's not to mention it can be used to make oil to eat and, from there, biofuel.  Plus, it has a one to one ratio when converted to biofuel.  That is one gallon of oil is equal to one gallon of biodiesel.

"You need a whole lot of acreage in order to make enough oil to make this work.  We have that acreage,"
exclaims Pilgrim.

She says Montana also has a biofuel facility, but what we don't have is camelina production for biofuel.

"That's where these new companies are going to come in that really start out looking at new varieties that are better and new methods of production that are better and getting the farmers on board, just so that we have enough oil to actually make biofuel," explains Pilgrim.

That includes companies like Sustainable Oils.