Hemp: The Biofuel of the Future?
Fossil fuels have played a significant role in global economic, social, and technological development since the 1880s when coal was first introduced as an energy source. However, fossil fuels have also harmed the planet because they are the dominant source of air pollution.
The world is now forced to balance energy needs with economic and social development. It is crucial to find lower-carbon energy sources that will allow us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Hemp is mostly grown outdoors like a lot of our
outdoor cannabis seeds, which has a lesser environmental impact than growing
There is a growing interest in cultivating hemp as a biofuel source. It is a hearty plant, and every part of it is usable. Like most feedstock grown for biofuel, cultivating hemp presents problems. However, hemp also offers several valuable benefits.
The Race to Create Fossil Fuel Alternatives
Fossil fuels are getting more attention today than ever before because their devastation is far-reaching and getting worse. Scientists are exploring every option that could limit the damage and help heal the earth.
Every phase of extracting and processing coal, oil, and natural gas harms humans, animals, and the environment. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), active gas and oil wells expose 12.6 million Americans to toxins even before burning. Just transporting them contributes to air pollution.
Countries around the world are researching biofuels to limit the land destruction that occurs when fossil fuels are removed from the earth. The process has destroyed millions of miles of animal and human habitats.
Burning coal, natural gas, and oil also emits lethal carbon dioxide into the environment, contributing to climate change.
Fossil fuels are also unsustainable because the existing supply will be exhausted sometime in the future, and it can take eons for it to form again.
Biofuel Production Has Pros and Cons
Fuel created from biomass, or organic matter, is called biofuel and offers a cleaner, sustainable option to fossil fuels. However, current efforts to produce biofuel feedstock have created problems.
In the U.S., soybeans, and corn are grown as a biofuel feedstock. Sugar cane and sugar beet are typical in South America, and palm oil is cultivated in Asia. Europeans typically farm rapeseed.
To grow the feedstock, farmers have cultivated vast amounts of land and destroyed animal habitats in the process. Entire rainforests have disappeared, and secondary deforestation is occurring as trees that have grown back are again removed.
When arable land once used to grow food for humans is converted for feedstock farming, food prices skyrocket. The damage to food supplies and the environment is most common in developing countries, where it does the most harm.
Growing Hemp for Biofuel Is Theoretical
Researchers are evaluating hemp as biofuel feedstock because it offers several advantages over traditional feedstock. However, there are also challenges, so the idea is still mostly theory.
There isn’t enough hemp being cultivated to make it a viable fuel source at this time. Until recently, U.S. laws made it illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., but legislation has become more relaxed.
Besides, most hemp grown in the world is targeted for other things. European, Chinese, and American growers supply hemp for research, cosmetics, and CBD, as well as hemp rope and paper.
Despite the current production issues, University of Connecticut researchers investigating hemp as a fuel source believe it could be useful to its growers. Farmers already cultivating crops have the resources to power their entire farms with the oils from hemp seeds.
Hemp Still Needs Water and Fertilizer
Farming hemp for biofuel does not solve all the environmental problems associated with fossil fuels. For one thing, it still requires valuable water and toxic fertilizer.
Growing crops for fuel requires more water than producing fossil fuels, but hemp does not need as much water as other feedstock. Corn needs about 22 inches to produce a crop while hemp thrives with about 12-15 inches in a growing season. Plants get some water from rainfall, but growers need to provide the rest.
Hemp plants need fertilizers, which are mostly nitrates from fossil fuels, although hemp requires less fertilizing than other crops. When fertilizer is added to plants, it does not remain in place. It can be washed into watercourses and contaminate drinking water and kill fish. Fertilizer also enters the environment as nitrous oxide, a pollutant more deadly than carbon dioxide.
The potential harm from fertilizing crops is somewhat offset by the fact that hemp does not deplete the land like other feedstock. About 70% of a hemp crop’s nutrient requirements return to the soil.
Cost Could Impact Hemp Biofuel Demand
Per the Cannabis Exchange, using hemp as a biofuel presents some financial challenges.
Producing hemp biofuel takes more steps than other sources, making it more costly. Sugarcane just needs fermentation. Corn requires only hydrolysis and fermentation. Hemp must be pre-treated before any processing can begin.
It also takes about 50% more biofuel (of any kind) to create the same amount of energy as fossil fuel.
Hemp Can Be Converted Into Two Biofuels
Biofuels are divided into ethanol and biodiesel.
Ethanol is created from grains like wheat barley and corn, as well as the inedible parts of plants. When ethanol is used as a biofuel, it is typically blended with petrol. Vehicles designed for petrol usually can accept only 10% ethanol, while flexible autos can tolerate up to 80%. Some cars will run on 100% ethanol.
Biodiesel is made using plant or animal fat, and it needs methanol. Regular diesel and biodiesel are usually blended at a 4:1 ratio but can consist of 2% – 100% biodiesel. Any vehicle designed for diesel will run on biodiesel.
Hemp feedstock can be used to produce both ethanol and biodiesel. Hempseed is 30%-35% oil and yields about 207 gallons (780 litres) per hectare. It provides a smaller yield than coconut and palm oil but twice as much as sunflowers, peanuts, and rapeseed. Its yield is four times that of soybeans.
Hemp Is a Sustainable Crop
Unlike fossil fuels, the supply of hemp can be renewed, making it a sustainable source. It is also more earth-friendly than alternatives like corn and soybean, which deplete the earth.
A recent Forbes article notes that “Hemp is a more sustainable, organic, and regenerative agricultural crop, and almost everything that you can make with cotton, or soy or corn can be made with hemp.”
Biofuel feedstock like sugarcane and corn compete with crops grown for food, but the hemp leaves and cellulose fibers used to create fuel are not essential food sources.
Farmers can also grow hemp in almost any climate, making it the ideal crop for every country. It can grow on “marginal land” or areas that would be too expensive to farm. The term describes land that has poor soil, suffers from agricultural pollution, or includes steep terrain.
Also, hemp is a weed, so technically, it can thrive anywhere without pesticides. Plants need little water or space, are biodegradable, and produce more pulp per hectare than trees.
However, farmers need fertile land to produce the best quality feedstock. It is likely that if hemp is produced for biofuel on a mass scale, growers will need to divert land now used for food, which would drive up prices just as current feedstock does.
Farming land now considered marginal would also destroy the habitats of animals that are important to ecosystems. Another obstacle to farming marginal land is harvesting and transportation. Many areas are not farmed because they are inaccessible and difficult to work. Transporting harvested crops could be difficult and expensive.
Every Part of a Hemp Plant Is Usable
One benefit that makes hemp an excellent fuel feedstock is that growers can use every part of plants.
The oil pressed from seeds, hulls, and seed matter can be turned into animal feed “cakes.” Leaves, harvesting trim, and roots return to the soil and nourish it. Hurds and bast fibres are the raw material for an array of products that include paper, building materials, and fibre.
CBD hemp seeds for sale through i49 are high in omega-3 fats, protein, fibre, and other nutrients. Seed oil is used in cooking and the production of paints, adhesives, and plants. Many people eat the leaves or use them to make juice.
A relatively new process called pyrolsis may also provide a way to use hemp plant waste. It is being used to convert waste biomass (organic material) into fuel-grade oils. The process involves subjecting the biomass to extreme heat. Pyrolysis has been used to produce bio-oil, bio-char, and syngas (synthetic gas).
The process could potentially be used to convert the massive amount of hemp processing waste into a usable substance. Commercial grade hemp is grown everywhere in the world for rope and clothing, but most of each plant is discarded.
Extracting valuable byproducts from hemp waste can benefit the industry as a whole, since cultivating hemp is already creating an enormous waste problem. During the first three years after cannabis was legalized in Washington, the state produced 1.7 million pounds of cannabis waste.
Researchers around the world are turning their attention to hemp as a biofuel source that can help combat the devastating impact fossil fuels are having on the environment.
Hemp cultivation uses fewer natural resources than other types of biofuel feedstock, and every part of plants can be used to produce biodiesel, ethanol, and an array of other products. Also, farmers can grow hemp almost anywhere in the world.
Let’s end with some in-house product recommendations! Although these may not be classified as “true hemp”, These High-CBD plants provide a similar plant phenotype with buds that are very low in THC: