- First generation biodiesel feedstock
- Second generation biodiesel feedstock
- Third generation biodiesel feedstock
Applications of Biodiesel
Data and Statistics
Biodiesel Status and Trends
Biodiesel Projects and Companies
- About 90 percent of total biofuels production is concentrated in the United States, Brazil, and the European Union (EU). Production could become more dispersed if development programs in other countries, such as India, Malaysia and China, are successful.
- The sale of biodiesel has been on the rise since 1999, but the most notable growth was between 2004 and 2006 when sales increased ten-fold to 250 million gallons.
Biodiesel refers to any diesel-equivalent biofuel made from renewable biological materials such as vegetable oils, animal fats or from other biomass such as algae.
Biodiesel is usually produced by a chemical reaction (called Transesterification) in which vegetable or waste oil is reacted with a low molecular weight alcohol, such as ethanol and methanol.
Biodiesel is quite similar to fossil diesel fuel, but there are some notable differences. While the petroleum and other fossil fuels contain sulfur, ring molecules & aromatics, the biodiesel molecules are very simple hydrocarbon chains, containing no sulfur, ring molecules or aromatics. Biodiesel is made up of almost 10% oxygen, making it a naturally "oxygenated" fuel.
Bio-diesel can be used in diesel engines either as a standalone or blended with petro diesel. Much of the world uses a system known as the "B" factor to state the amount of biodiesel in any fuel mix. For example, fuel containing 20% biodiesel is labeled B20. Pure biodiesel is referred to as B100
The primary feedstocks for biodiesel are provided for various regions worldwide.
Current Feedstocks for Biodiesel Worldwide
Malaysia / Indonesia
Some unique oilseeds used for biodiesel
First, Second and Third Generation Biodiesel Feedstock
First generation biodiesel feedstock
Feedstock such as soybeans, palm, canola and rapeseed are considered first generation feedstock for biodiesel production, as they were the first crops to be tried for biodiesel. Most first generation biodiesel feedstock could be used alternatively to make food for humans as well.
While the first generation feedstocks helped the biodiesel industry start off the blocks, they posed serious challenges.
- Threat to human food chain – Most first generation feedstock had hitherto been used for food. For instance, palm and soy were oil crops whose oils were a vital part of human food. By diverting these food crops to produce oil for biodiesel, the world suddenly faced a food vs. fuel crisis. Primary examples of such feedstocks are palm and soy.
- Threat to environment – Given their yields of oil, very large portions of land were needed to cultivate the first generation biodiesel crops in order for them to make a significant contribution to the world’s fuel demand. Such a necessity resulted in countries around the world cutting down forests in order to plant these crops. This started creating serious ecological imbalances. For instance, palm oil is currently one of the main feedstocks for biodiesel, and two countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, account for about 80% of the world's supply of palm oil. Studies in these countries have documented how large-scale deforestation caused by the expansion of palm production in the past few years to satisfy the world's biodiesel demand has led to extensive damage to the environment and the wildlife in those regions.
Second generation biodiesel feedstock
Non-food bio-feedstocks are considered as feedstock for second generation biodiesel. Energy crops such as jatropha represent the second generation biodiesel feedstock. In addition, using technologies such as biomass to liquid (BTL), many other non-food crops could be converted to biodiesel. These feedstocks have the advantage of not affecting the human food chain by them being diverted to make fuel.
While feedstock belonging to the second generation do not typically affect the human food chain and can be grown in marginal and wastelands, these feedstock might still not be abundant enough to replace more than 20-25% of our total transportation fuels.
Non-food bio-feedstocks are considered as feedstock for second generation biodiesel. Either by using standard transesterification method, or by using technologies such as biomass to liquid (BTL), such feedstock could be converted to biodiesel.
Advantages of Second Generation Biofuels
- Eliminates competition for food and feed
- More efficient and more environmentally friendly
- Less farmland is required
- Mixture of crops can be used
- Useful by-products are produced which can be used in other chemical processes or burned for heat and power.
Disadvantages of Second Generation Biofuels
Same downfall as the first generation fuels but without as great of an eco imprint.
Third generation biodiesel feedstock
Feedstocks such as algae are considered to belong to the third generation of biodiesel feedstocks. Algae are low-input, high-yield feedstocks to produce biofuels. They produce 30 times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans. With the higher prices of fossil fuels (petroleum), there is much interest in algaculture (farming algae). One advantage of many biofuels over most other fuel types is that they are biodegradable, and so are relatively harmless to the environment if spilled.
As a result of the above advantages, many experts opine that only the third generation biofuel feedstocks have the potential to replace most or all of the fossil fuel demand worldwide.
Advantages of Third Generation Biofuels
- Superior yields
- Not directly affecting the human food chain
- Grown in places that are not suitable for agriculture
- Enhanced efficiencies or reduction in cost
Disadvantages of Third Generation Biofuels
The problem presented by this generation of biofuels is primarily that of developing technologies that will enable biofuels from these to be more cost effective.
Applications of Biofuels
Three ways of using the biomass resources constitute the bioenergy sector:
- Biomass for heating purposes (bio-heating)
- Biomass for electricity production (bio-electricity)
- Biomass for transport fuels (transportation biofuels)
The diagram below shows the possible transformation of biomass, from raw materials to final use:
Data and Statistics
Biodiesel Status and Trends
Global biofuels production has tripled from 4.8 billion gallons in 2004 to about 16.0 billion gallons in 2007, but still accounts for less than 2 percent of the global transportation fuel supply.
Production of biofuels is expected to increase multifold between 2007 and 2030. Some country snapshots are listed below:
- Global ethanol production more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, to more than 34 billion liters (9 billion gallons). From 2007 to 2008, production dramatically rose again, increasing from 49 to 65 billion liters (13 to 17.2 billion gallons), a growth rate of 33%. Global production of biodiesel, starting from a much smaller base, expanded significantly during the period 2004-08.
- The US has been a prime driver of growth in ethanol as biofuel.
- In Brazil, already the world's largest ethanol producer, a study conducted by the University of Campinas for the Ministry of Science and Technology showed that the country could lift annual exports of ethanol derived from sugarcane to 200 billion litres (53 billion gallons) by 2025.
- Several other developing countries (eg Thailand, India, China) are strengthening their production and use of biofuels, and Malaysia has announced its intention of producing biodiesel from palm oil for export to Europe.
- In Australia, the government has set an annual target of 350 million litres (93 million gallons) of biofuel production by 2010.
Biodiesel – Current and Future Potential
Biodiesel could be produced from oilseeds by extraction of oil and transesterification of the resulting oil. This is the traditional method of biodiesel production. Another method, called BTL or biomass to liquid, is less common but emerging as a viable alternative. This method produces biodiesel from biomass using a process called gasification, followed by a chemical synthesis. Trends for biodiesel from both these methods are given below.
Regionwise Biodiesel Trends
- In the United States, Canada and Europe, it is predicted that strong policy drivers could result in biodiesel ramp-up rate similar to that for ethanol.
- For the mandates and plans that various regions have for biodiesel, land requirements are below 10% of the total cropland of the EU, United States and Canada, and initial yields are assumed to be about 1200 litres/ha for feedstocks such as rapeseed.
- In Brazil, biodiesel from soy is assumed to expand cultivation on pastureland, but to remain below 5% of current cropland.
- In some of the other world regions, for biodiesel, production patterns with land requirements have been capped at 5% of the total available cropland.
- BTL biodiesel (through gasification and chemical synthesis) is expected to be fully commercialised by 2015.
Biodiesel Projects and Companies
• Ag Environmental Products, LLC.
• Innovation Fuels
• ADM - Archer Daniels Midland
• Beacon Energy (Texas)
• Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC
• Cargill, Inc.
• Carolina BioFuels, LLC
• Central Iowa Energy, LLC
• Delta Biofuels, Inc.
• Direct Fuels
• Freedom Fuels, LLC
• Griffin Industries
• Imperial Western Products
• Imperium Renewables, Inc.
• Innovation Fuels, Inc.
• Iowa Renewable Energy, LLC
• Lake Erie Biofuel
• Louis Dreyfus Corporation
• Mid America Biofuels
• Organic Fuels, Inc.
• Paseo Cargill Energy, LLC
Biofuel Mandates, Initiatives and Incentives
Government & Other Public Mandates & Initiatives
The table below provides details on use and blending share targets (T) and mandates (M) for liquid biofuels that can be met by either ethanol or biodiesel
Quantity or blending share
350 million liters by 2010
2% by 2005; 5.75% by 2010; 10% by 2020
2.5% by 2006 rising to 5.75% by 2009
2.5% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
3.7% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2% by 2008, 4% by 2009, 5.75% by 2010
7% by 2010; 10% by 2015
0.7% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
0.6% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
0.06% by 2005 (not applicable thereafter)
1% by 2005, 2.5% by 2010
2% by 2007, gradually rising to 5.75% by 2010
2% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2% from 2007 onwards
0.5% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2% by 2006, 5.75% by 2010
1.2% by 2006, gradually rising to 5% by 2010
3.4% by 2009, rising to 5.83% by 2010
3% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010
2.5% by 2008, 3.75% by 2009, 5% by 2010
2.78% by volume of gasoline consumption in 2006 (4 billion gallons, or 15 GL); 7.5 billion gallons (28 GL) by 2012
10% by 2009; 25% by 2020
Source: Global Subsidies Initiative based on country reports, September 2007
EU Member States Goals for the Use of Biofuels as Transportation Fuel
% of Total Fuel Use
Note: (a) Updated or proposed mandate, previous mandate bracketed, (b) volume based (c) biodiesel only, NA – not available
- It is currently more expensive
- Disadvantages of using biodiesel produced from agricultural crops involve additional land use, as land area is taken up and various agricultural inputs with their environmental effects are inevitable. Switching to biodiesel on a large scale requires considerable use of our arable area. Even modest usages of biodiesel would consume almost all cropland in some countries in Europe! If the same thing is to happen all over the world, the impact on global food supply could be a major concern, and could make some countries being net importers of food products, from their current status of net exporters! It could so happen that most lands on the planet are deployed to produce food for cars, not people!
- It gives out more nitrogen oxide emissions (Nitrogen oxide emissions from biodiesel blends could possibly be reduced by blending with kerosene or Fischer-Tropsch diesel)
- Transportation & storage of biodiesel require special management. Some properties of biodiesel make it undesirable for use at high concentrations. For example, pure biodiesel doesn't flow well at low temperatures, which can cause problems for customers with outdoor storage tanks in colder climates. A related disadvantage is that biodiesel, because of its nature, can’t be transported in pipelines. It has to be transported by truck or rail, which increases the cost.
- Biodiesel is less suitable for use in low temperatures, than petrodiesel. The “cloud point” is the temperature at which a sample of the fuel starts to appear cloudy, indicating that wax crystals have begun to form. At even lower temperatures, the fuel becomes a gel that cannot be pumped. The “pour point” is the temperature below which the fuel will not flow. As the cloud and pour points for biodiesel are higher than those for petroleum diesel, the performance of biodiesel in cold conditions is markedly worse than that of petroleum diesel. At low temperatures, diesel fuel forms wax crystals, which can clog fuel lines and filters in a vehicle’s fuel system. Vehicles running on biodiesel blends may therefore exhibit more drivability problems at less severe winter temperatures than do vehicles running on petroleum diesel.
- Another disadvantage of biodiesel is that it tends to reduce fuel economy. Energy efficiency is the percentage of the fuel’s thermal energy that is delivered as engine output, and biodiesel has shown no significant effect on the energy efficiency of any test engine. The energy content per gallon of biodiesel is approximately 11 percent lower than that of petroleum diesel. Vehicles running on biodiesel are therefore expected to achieve about 10% fewer miles per gallon of fuel than petrodiesel.
- There have been a few concerns regarding biodiesel’s impact on engine durability
- Biodiesel has excellent solvent properties. Hence, any deposits in the filters and in the delivery systems may be dissolved by biodiesel and result in need for replacement of the filters. Petroleum diesel forms deposits in vehicular fuel systems, and because biodiesel can loosen those deposits, they can migrate and clog fuel lines and filters.
- The solvent property of biodiesel could also cause other fuel-system problems. Biodiesel may be incompatible with the seals used in the fuel systems of older vehicles and machinery, necessitating the replacement of those parts if biodiesel blends are used.
Virgin Atlantic Flies Biofuel-powered Jumbo Jet (UK)
Virgin Atlantic carried out the world's first flight of a commercial aircraft powered with biofuel in an effort to show it can produce less carbon dioxide than normal jet fuels.
"This breakthrough will help Virgin Atlantic to fly its planes using clean fuel sooner than expected," Sir Richard Branson, the airline's president, said before the Boeing 747 flew from London's Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. He said the flight would provide "crucial knowledge that we can use to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint,".
The flight was partially fueled with a biofuel mixture of coconut and babassu oil in one of its four main fuel tanks. The jet carried pilots and several technicians, but no passengers. Virgin Atlantic spokesman predicted this biofuel would produce much less CO2 than regular jet fuel, but said it will take weeks to analyze the data from Sunday's flight.
The company said Virgin's Boeing 747-400 jet and its engines did not have to be redesigned to use biofuel on the test flight.
It also said that CO2 emissions on a normal flight are generally three times the fuel burned and that technical engineers on the test flight would take readings and analyze data to estimate its greenhouse gas emissions.
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