Current Research

Life cycle assessment of aviation fuels production from olefin metathesis of camelina oil

Well-to-pump (WTP) life cycle analysis (LCA) for the production of bio-based renewable aviation fuels from the conversion of camelina triglyceride was modeled in this study. A novel biorefinery conversion process consisting of olefin metathesis (OMT) of unsaturated fatty acid alkyl esters was adapted for the simultaneous production of renewable aviation gasoline, jet fuel, green diesel, and other high-value chemicals. Inputs to camelina cultivation, oil extraction, conversion, and transportation were utilized in the evaluation of two key environmental burdens: life cycle energy requirement and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. OMT life cycle results were compared to hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) production from hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) and to petroleum jet (PTJ) production from conventional crude. WTP total energy consumption for OMT is 20-30% and 45-60% lower than HRJ and PTJ, respectively. Although both OMT and HRJ have substantially lower net GHG emissions relative to PTJ, OMT reflects a 30% GHG reduction compared to HRJ. Scenario analyses were performed to assess burden response to variabilities in model assumptions. The results indicate that camelina-derived OMT aviation fuels are highly sensitive to the nature of the catalyst used, H2 source, fertilizer application rate, and allocation approach.

Lead ResearcherEleazer Resurreccion

Funding: Montana Research Economic Development Initiative


Synthesis of Renewable 1,4-Cyclohexadiene from Camelina sativa through Olefin Metathesis

Olefin metathesis of unsaturated fatty acid alkyl esters presents a convenient route in producing renewable chemicals such as polymer precursors, functionalized alkenes, and fuels. One particular product of interest is 1,4-cyclohexadiene (1,4-CHD), which are used to prepare polymers.  The synthesis of 1,4-CHD have been researched to be from the metathesis of polyunsaturated fatty acid alkyl esters.  Camelina (Camelina sativa) contains about 50% by wt. of polyunsaturated fatty acid components with almost equal levels of linoleic and linolenic acids.  It can be anticipated that metathesis of plant oils such as camelina will have high 1,4-cyclohexadiene yields.  This study aimed to investigates the production of renewable 1,4-cyclohexadiene at high yields through metathesis of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) derived from camelina.  A closed batch reactor was used all throughout the experiment.  Different reactants (i.e., methyl linolenate, methyl linoleate, camelina FAME, and canola FAME) and a second-generation Grubbs catalyst were used in the metathesis reactions.  Results showed that plants oils with higher amounts of polyunsaturated components, specifically methyl linolenate, yields more 1,4-cyclohexadiene.  It is also concluded that separation of 1,4-cyclohexadiene from other products can be achieved by simple vacuum distillation.

Lead Researcher: Randy Maglinao

Funding: Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative


Development of Silica-Supported Heterogeneous Catalysts for Green Batch Manufacturing Processes

Catalysts are ubiquitously used throughout manufacturing to lower the energy and time needed to complete a reaction.  Their overall effectiveness directly reduces the cost of production.  However, the heavy metal catalysts that are often used in manufacturing processes tend to be in the same phase as the product.  For this reason, they are difficult to remove and often require a costly distillation step.  Consequently, the catalyst is deactivated during the removal step and cannot be used for further reactions.  Heterogeneous catalysts exist in a different phase from the product and can therefore be easily filtered out .  The ease with which they are removed reduces the energy input in a reaction as well as increases the recyclability of the catalyst.  The Center is currently developing a silica-supported ruthenium-based catalyst to used in the 1,4-Cyclohexadiene production process.

Lead Researcher: Alex Jones

Funding: Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative, Economic Development Administration, and Private Funding


Comprehensive Study on Engine Performance of Underground Mining Diesel Engines using Different Blends of Biodiesel

One of the most important aspects in underground mining is reducing harmful exhaust emissions from diesel equipment.  One approach to achieve this is to use biodiesel.  Biodiesel has been proven to reduce particulate matter and hydrocarbons in exhaust emissions of diesel engines.  In fact, Stillwater Mining recognizes this and has been using B70 (70% biodiesel) blend in their operations for over 10 years.  However, technology progresses and heavy duty diesel engines of today are designed with fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions in mind.

With the advancement in controls and injector design, it is unknown how biodiesel combusts in modern diesel engines used in underground mining.  The Center, in collaboration with Stillwater Mining Company and Dr. Jon Van Gerpen of University of Idaho, is currently evaluating different blends of canola biodiesel on different modern heavy duty diesel engines.

Lead Researchers: Randy Maglinao, Keith Richardson

Funding: Private Funding and Economic Development Administration