The primary oil used in the U.S. to make biodiesel fuel is soy oil. Peanut oil produces approximately 123 gallons of biodiesel per acre, compared to 50 gallons for soy oil. The problem is peanut oil on the world market is more valuable than soy oil, making conversion to biodiesel economically impractical.
Tests are under way at the University of Georgia to develop non-edible peanuts that are high in oil, and could be grown specifically for biodiesel production. These varieties are higher in oil content than currently grown runner and Virginia type varieties and would not compete on the world market with peanuts grown for food and commercial cooking oil products.
Georgia Brown is a commercially grown peanut that is high in oil content, but not good for commercial oil. Georganic is a test variety that is high in oil, low in input costs and not suitable for commercial use. Georganic, or similar varieties will likely be the future of peanut biodiesel, according to Daniel Geller, a research engineer at the University of Georgia.
“Running peanut biodiesel cleans residue from a diesel engine. This can be good and bad, because the particles tend to clog up the filter on an engine. After cleaning the filters a few times, peanut biodiesel actually runs much cleaner than diesel,” Geller explains.
Worldwide, the demand for alternative fuels is huge. In the U.S. the demand is critical. The U.S. has roughly six percent of the world’s population, but consumes nearly 25 percent of all the fossil fuel produced worldwide. Whether biodiesel from peanuts becomes a popular alternative to fossil fuel depends on the economics of peanut oil worldwide.