Although biofuels are not taken very seriously as a permanent solution to gasoline and oil in the near future, they are actually one of our best ways to combat the continuously growing need for oil and gasoline.[1] In 2007, the united states used 6.7 billion gallons of ethanol and 358 million gallons of biodiesel. This compared to the amount of gasoline and diesel that the united states used in the same year which was 136 billion gallons and 53 billion gallons. Although the biodiesel and ethanol numbers are far lower it shows that we are progressing and soon biofuels may become an alternative to the gasoline and diesel that has been polluting our atmosphere for over 100 years. There is a lot of controversy about using biofuels because they require some of our natural products that we have other uses for as well. [2] Looking at the pros and cons of biofuel many people think that biofuels are the solution to the fuel crisis but some say that biofuels are just as harmful as the oil and gasoline that we use because farmers in countries such as Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia must expand their lands by destroying rain forests and draining wetlands.[3] Opinions on the subject vary from person to person but looking at the data which is clear, stated by the International Energy Agency that by 2050 biofuels will be able to support 27% of our fuel needs.

National Geographic- Interactive Understanding of Biofuels
Biofuel vs Food

Table of Contents

First Biofuels

The first biofuels that were "invented" when people realized that the [4] first engines which were ran on older fuels such as kerosene and coal could also be run on vegetable oil because of it's high energy content. The first time a engine was shown on display running on a biofuel was at the 1900's world fair, where a diesel engine was run on peanut oil. Later on Rudolph diesel did various work working with vegetable oil to see if it would be a viable fuel source for his diesel engine. Before Diesel was able to do this he died, his death has been a mystery for years with murder as one of the primary suspicions for why he died. After diesel's death in 1913 petroleum became more widely used in products including the type of fuel we still used today known as diesel fuel. With petroleum and oil products being much cheaper to use than early biofuels the diesel engine was changed to match diesel fuel instead of bio fuels. Some of the first generation bio fuels that people began to use in the 1900's were bio diesel, vegetable oil, bio gas, bio alcohol and syngas. Although bio fuels were going to be initially used the death of Rudolph Diesel and the low cost of petroleum products quickly shut that idea down.
Rudolph Diesel - Inventor of the diesel engine

List of Biofuels and Production

First Generation Biofuels

[5] Bio Diesel : This is the most common type of biofuel usually found in higher use in Europe. This type of biofuel is made by a process called
transesterification. Transesterification is when animal and plant fats are "cooked" with heat and usually a base or acid that speeds up the process so that the final output is triglycerides and the alcohol. The biofuel is then created by mixing the biomass from the plant and animal fats with methanol. The chemical reaction that ensues then creates biodiesel. Biodiesel is now used in many engines as long as it is mixed with a form of mineral diesel, Although some engines can be modified to accept and run on pure biodiesel oil.
Transesterification Bio diesel Production Method

Vegetable Oil : Vegetable oil, you know you could grease up a pan before you cook or add it to what ever you were going to make but you wouldn't think it alone could run a car. The main factor that shows if the oil can be used to power a engine is the quality of the oil. Oil that is made in good quality is mostly made for cooking purposes and the other oil that is produced will generally be used in the process to make bio diesel although some of it may be used right away to power engines depending on the quality.

Bio Gas : biogas is created by anaerobic digestion of organic materials being broken down/degraded which creates gas (methane) that we can use as a new source of power. Biogas can also be created by biodegradation of waste materials such as organic material (compost) and waste products (raw sewage) adding these to anaerobic digesters then create a type of yeast. This yeast can be used as a agricultural fertilizer because it is enriched with nutrients from the anaerobic process. The process also produces methane a gas that is highly rich and can be used as a biofuel. Although methane can be a great fuel source it can be built up within landfils and can become very dangerous if a source of ignition is put near the methane.

Bio Alcohols : These alcohols are created by a method known as fermentation. This process happens by introducing enzymes and multiple micro organisms that are added to starches and sugars. Ethanol is the most widely used and common type of bio alcohol, there is also Butanol and Propanol that are also bio alcohols but are less known. Although it is less widely know Butanol can be directly inserted into a gasoline engine and is able to run without any problems, it also uses an ABE type of fermentation. [6] Some research and tests have been conducted that show[7] that Butanol may be more efficient and effective than ethanol. It is more effective because it can be put into a regular gasoline engine without any changes, the downside of Butanol is that is must use the ABC method of fermentation which takes longer and it is not widely known yet that it is a better biofuel.

Biodiesel and Ethanol Production Rates

Second Generation Biofuels

[8] Cellulosic Ethanol : Cellulosic ethanol is chemically identical to the first generation ethanol. Although it is produced by using different raw materials and a new way of turning those raw materials into the cellulosic ethanol known as cellulose hydrolysis. Cellulose hydrolysis can use any of the following to make cellulosic ethanol straw, corn, wood chips, miscanthus and switchgrass. Although these naturally occuring materials are easy to get they must be hydrolysed into simple sugars before they going through the distillation process. In February 2007 the U.S. department of energy confirmed that they will spend $385 million on six biorefineries in the next 4 years. The depeartment of energy has since made these biorefineries and they are now working on how to make these biofuels cheaper and easier to make.

[9] Bio DME/ Methanol : Modern methanol can be created by various different materials by introducing these materials to a thermochemical process. This methanol can also be converted into another type of fuel known as dimethylether or DME by catalytic dehydration. If DME is between -25 and 5 degrees celcius then it is in the form of a gas not a liquid. DME cannot be mixed with standard diesel fuels because of this temperature abnormality. On September, 18, 2009 king Carl XVI Gustaf of sweden opened the worlds first bioDME plant in Pitea, Sweden.

[10] Bio-Oil and Bio Crude : To create bio crude oil there is a method developed by Shell (Oil Company), This method includes putting the original biomass which is created with the raw material and treating it by putting it through multiple stages of high temperatures and pressures this process produces bio crude. This bio crude can then be made in to heavy crude which can be used in coal power stations by a process known as extraction. This bio crude can also become light crude by a process called hydrodeoxygenation which can make this a usable and cleaner source of fuel. Most of the biomass that is used for this process is wood chips or other left over parts from the agriculture or forestry business. Norway has started a program to make a bio fuel plant that they hope will be operational by 2011 and hope to have a full scale plant by 2014.

[11] Bio Hydrogen : Bio hydrogen can be made in many different ways and has many different applicable uses. The most popular one is the use of steam reforming, it creates steam by anaerobic digestion of organic waste. When this process is finished the steam that is created along with the natural gas from the anaerobic digestion mix and steam react together to make a hydrogen gas that can be used as a fuel. Bio hydrogen can also be created a process known as fermentation this closely resembles how bio alcohols were made in the first generation bio fuels. Creating the hydrogen with fermentation may take longer but is a easier process and currently researchers are experimenting with different types of bacteria to increase the yield of each batch to produce more hydrogen. Using algae is another way of making hydrogen using the anaerobic fermentation process although this process has not been used effectively on a large scale yet. BMW has created a liquid hydrogen combustion engine that runs completely on hydrogen and although it works BMW has not said anything about mass producing these cars yet.bmw_hydrogen7b.jpg

[12] Bio Butanol : Modern Butanol is an alcohol that is used as a transport fuel, in many ways it is similar to the first Butanol that was created for the first generation biofuels and was tested on some of the first gasoline engines. Creating this new type of Butanol still uses the standard ABE fermentation method using anaerobic digestion which produces carbohydrates. However due to cost issues on producing the Butanol and how low yield the process is and how the product that is made sometimes has problems all adds up to it not being able to compete on a commercial scale against the new types of Ethanol fuel. Currently bio Butanol is mixed with gasoline in petrol engines that don't need to be modified to run on it. Even though sometimes the new Butanol can be unusable it gives off a higher energy output than Ethanol. To take advantage of the high energy content of the Butanol a new production method must be found before Butanol can be massed produced as a gasoline alternative. Researchers have begun looking into the ABE fermentation process and are currently trying to find ways to control the phage infection which is one of the causes that makes Butanol ineffective.

Biofuel vs Food

[13] There are many different views on what bio fuels are and how they are effecting are planet. Many people believe that they are a new clean source of fuel that we should take advantage of because it eliminates are need to use gasoline and oil products that pollute our earth. Others believe that although we are solving one problem we may be starting an even bigger one by using some of our food products such as corn to create Ethanol rather then to feed people. [14] Looking at a recent increase in corn prices we can see that using corn for Ethanol has drastically increased the price from $2 a bushel to $4 a bushel. Although a $2 increase does not seem like a lot of money an average pig from the time it is born to the time it is sold eats about 10 bushels and the difference between $20 and $40 per pig is a huge difference if you have a farm that has hundreds or even thousands of pigs.[15] Pig and cattle farmers have got hit with a brick wall because the margins for selling their livestock is getting smaller every year because of the increase in demand for corn and the other natural materials that are used to make Ethanol.
Ethanol Plant

Currently corn and these materials are in a sort of tug of war between the agricultural industry and the fuel industry because there is not enough to go around. If we wish to sustain ourselves and make Ethanol from the corn it is said that our farming land for these products would have to be almost increased by 75%. Even then we would have to find ways of making crops grow faster and more per bushel so we could make use of them better.[16] Currently the U.S. government has 204 ethanol distilleries as of 2010 that create 14.6 billion gallons of fuel a year. Another 9 are scheduled to be built and operational by 2014.

  1. ^ Energy Business Daily
  2. ^ "Eur Activ Network"
  3. ^ International Energy Agency
  4. ^ Pacific Biodiesel
  5. ^ Biofuels : The fuel of the future
  6. ^ Technology Review
  7. ^ Eco Geek, Brains for the Earth
  8. ^ European Biofuels Technology Platform
  9. ^ European Biofuels Technology Platform
  10. ^ European Biofuels Technology Platform
  11. ^ European Biofuels Technology Platform
  12. ^ European Biofuels Technology Platform
  13. ^,8599,1701221,00.html Time Science
  14. ^ Business Weekly
  15. ^
  16. ^