Biofuels are basically fuels derived from renewable plant-based organic matter such as beetroot, rapeseed, sunflower, cereals, agricultural waste, etc. you can think of biofuel as any type of liquid fuel which can be produced from biological materials. These are not limited to things such as ethanol, biodiesel, and some other “green” fuels. These are produced from pure and organic materials or biomass. Plant and animal waste are the most common source of biofuels. While, you take the term of agriculture where the biofuels can be taken from the products sources such as crops, forestry, and animal.
Thanks to technology, that has given us ability to expand the variety of biofuels which consists of solids, liquids, and gases gained from the materials like woods, crops, and waste. In everyday life, we use biofuel as an alternative option to fossil fuels for example: petroleum, propane, coal, and natural gas. There are two types of biofuels which are primary and secondary.
Types of biofuels
1. Primary biofuels
Primary biofuels are the types which consists of organic materials which are mainly used for heating purpose and to produce electricity. These also include wood chips and pallets which are mainly used to produce fir and generally kept in original state.
2. Secondary biofuels
Secondary biofuels are the types of biofuels which mainly consists of liquid biofuels, you can take example of ethanol and biodiesel which are used to power vehicles and processing of biomass.
Advantages of biofuels
- The transport sector relies on oil but the use of biofuels makes them energy independence.
- The other advantage of biofuels, thanks to them, it is possible to preserve greenhouse gas emission which are related to transport.
- They help boost the creation and maintenance of agricultural or forestry activities.
- They nurture the creation and maintenance of the industrial activities.
- Last but not the least that we have the advantage of biofuels is that they can be incorporated in gasoline or diesel. However, they even don’t require the distribution network or vehicles.
Conventional biofuels are known as the fuels that are derived usually from plants that gives you food such as sugar cane, beetroot, cereals, rapeseed, corn, sunflower, peanut, etc. These are the biofuels which are produced on an industrial scale. However, conventional biofuels can be divided into two categories:
Bioethanol for gasoline vehicles
These are the alcohol which are produced by the fermentation of sugar which is obviously derived from plants such as sugarcane, beetroot or even starch that are extracted from cereals such as wheat and corn. An interesting fact is that this biofuel in Europe, is used as alcohol or sometime converted to the ETBE that stands for Ethyl tert-butyl ether, before they are added to the gasoline. This conversion takes place through the reaction of ethanol with isobutene which is an oil product. Not only this, but Bioethanol is primarily produced by using local resources such as sugar cane in Brazil and corn in USA.
Biodiesel for diesel vehicles
This is produced from oil-containing plants such as rapeseed, sunflower, soybean, palm that has to go through a conversion process. However, oil is reacted with the methanol to produce FAME that stands for Fatty Acid Methyl Ester which has somehow properties same as diesel. Not only this, FAME has the ability to incorporated in diesel with the proportion up to 7% vol. There is another option which requires hydrotreating these oil to manufacture Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), which has the ability to be incorporated into engine diesel in any of the proportion.
Can we say biofuels are environment-friendly?
To check if the biofuels are actually environment-friendly or not, it is required that we explore every step of biofuel production which is cultivation of the plant to its end use within a vehicle even its actual manufacture as well. However, there are many of the points that we should consider:
- The species of plants that are used
- The production and consumption origin as well
- The method of agriculture used
- Not to forget about the industrial method for the production.
If you want to take an example from everyday life then you can take a look at the bioethanol production process which will be based on agricultural resources which are currently available in the market. However, the best environmental result has been seen produced from sugarcane. There is a benefit of using sugarcane, because it needs lees investment and the bagasse which is actually fibrous sugar cane residue. Now, this bagasse can be used to produce the heat that is essential for the distillation step. While, on the other hand, when you use coal for the distillation step then the environmental footprint can be penalized.
You might be interested to know that the advanced biofuels have environmental essence which are associated with greenhouse gas emission savings of between 80% to 90%. This is so, because of the steps that are involved into mobilizing the resources that emit few greenhouse gases. Not only this, they also help to create less industrial waste which is the main concern nowadays.
Latest trends in biofuel production
There is a survey that says that biofuel and specially ethanol requires more energy investment than it produces. Somehow, it is true because biofuels substantially require more energy investment in reference to fossil fuels. Not only this, but it generates less energy as well. While on the other hand, according to the US department of energy says that ethanol is produced by corn that use to delivers 30% more energy than the energy invested to produce it. Similar to this the biodiesel also have the record to produce higher energy balance. Nowadays the biofuels production is considered to be profitable option. Hence, biofuels require lower investment and yields are measured higher per acre. Brazil is known to be the second leading income country which produce and do the work to export ethanol which is produced from sugarcane and soybeans.
One of the important key factors which is dependent on commodities have high chances to cut the rising oil prices. In future if it becomes possible to use the biofuels on a global level then it will depict an amazing impact on the economy and the environment as well, that too globally.
Future prediction of biofuels
As you might know that United States is one of the largest producer of biofuels across the globe. Not only this, but this U.S produced approximately 1,557 petajoules and biodiesel as well. In the year 2011, International Energy Agency forecast that biofuels are going to be hiked up by 27% and produce global transportation fuels by 2050.
There’s a prediction by U.S department of energy that says transport fuels are going to produced 14% more by 2030. As you know that there’s a big need to replace fossil fuels with biofuels. This is the biggest challenge the world is going to face.