Sustainable Oils, Inc., a Seattle-based renewable fuels company specializing in the research and production of camelina, recently announced they have purchased 45 acres of land near Havre, Mont. The plan is to build a 600,000-bushel grain storage facility with construction estimated to begin as soon as the ground thaws in the spring. The facility is expected to be fully operational by October of 2022.
Sustainable Oils is a feedstock subsidiary company of Global Clean Energy Holdings, Inc. (GCEH). GCEH is a vertically-integrated renewable fuel company dedicated to the production of biofuels from beginning to end.
Since the company’s inception, Sustainable Oils has had a close working relationship with CHS-Big Sky, so it is fitting the recent purchased land is adjacent to the CHS-Havre facility, which will make shipping the camelina to GCEH’s Bakersfield, Calif., refinery a much easier proposition.
“This facility will be built so it can convey grain from the elevator we are building to the rail line that services CHS-Havre,” explained Barney Bernstein, vice president of North America operations for Sustainable Oils, Inc.
When Sustainable Oils first introduced camelina in Montana, it specifically targeted growers across Montana’s Hi-Line. Building their first grain storage facility in Havre seemed logical as that was where camelina production began and it is the area where contracted acres are expected to expand moving forward.
In 2021, Sustainable Oils had roughly 15,000 contracted camelina acres in Montana. Despite the crippling drought conditions experienced across the region, Bernstein reported the camelina performed exceptionally well with yields averaging about 750 pounds per acre.
“While it wasn’t the fanfare success we would have hoped for on a normal year, we had a lot of fields where other crops failed, but the camelina produced enough that the farmers were still able to harvest a crop,” Bernstein said.
In addition to proving drought tolerance, Bernstein says camelina can offer Montana growers other opportunities. It is a great rotational crop for small grains and camelina provides a more cost-efficient alternative to fallow acres.
“If you look at the economics year on year, you are way ahead with a wheat/camelina rotation versus a wheat/fallow rotation,” Bernstein said.
Although camelina in and of itself is a relatively new crop, Sustainable Oils has proven in a short time it is vested in its Montana growers. Earlier this fall, the company announced it was relocating its headquarters to Great Falls, Mont., so that it would be closer to its grower base.
Additionally, Exxon Mobil’s five-year commitment to purchase upwards of 220 million gallons of renewable diesel from GCEH’s oil refinery in California ensures demand for camelina will remain strong into the future.
“Our goal is to grow as fast as possible. We are looking in the future to hopefully have 1 million acres of camelina in Montana. We believe this is a great opportunity to provide greater economic stability for growers,” Bernstein noted.
The economic stability will not end with the individual growers. Bernstein went on to point out the new grain storage facility in Havre will inject between $7 and $10 million into the Hi-Line farming community. With camelina production growing across the state, grain storage facilities in Shelby, Kershaw, and potentially Moccasin, are scheduled to happen in the not too distant future, as well.
Growers interested in learning more about Sustainable Oils and camelina production in Montana are encouraged to visit susoils.com or you can e-mail Barney Bernstein directly at email@example.com.