Glimpse | Can Wisconsin Canola Oil Fuel Biodiesel?

Yael Grauer


Former county extension agent and current CVTC agriscience instructor Dwight Swenson believes that oil from canola grown in Wisconsin can produce a biodiesel fuel that is cost-competitive. An acre of canola can yield 125 gallons of oil, as compared to just 100 gallons from an acre of sunflowers or 50 gallons from an acre of soybeans. Canola, a seed-bearing plant, can be grown on marginal land, year after year,  with modest fertilization. The oil is then harvested with a combine and run through a screw press which separates the oil from the co-product. The co-product becomes animal feed, with a market value of $175-225 per ton (cheaper than soybean meal, which sells at about $315 per ton). The oil is further clarified until it becomes biodiesel fuel, similar to No. 2 diesel. Swenson and fellow CVTC agriscience instructor Brad Mathson are conducting a rigorous study to determine the economics of biodiesel, though Swenson estimates that farmers will be able to produce a gallon of biodiesel for $2.50 or less.

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