Biofuels facts and definitions

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As figure 13.4 displays energy from biogenic resources may be applied as direct heating material, as a transport fuel or as a source of electricity in power stations. The following chapter deals with biofuels in the transport sector.

Types of biofuels are presented in table 13.5.

Table 13.5 Biofuel types and market products

Basic definitions


Solid, liquid or gaseous fuel produced from plant or animal organic matter (biomass)


Biodegradable fraction of products, waste and residues from agriculture including vegetal and animal substances, forestry and related industries, as well the biodegradable fraction of industrial and municipal solid waste

Synthetic biofuels

Synthetic hydrocarbons or mixtures of it produced from biomass, e.g. SynGas produced via gasification of forestry biomass, or SynDiesel

2nd generation biofuels

Biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel derived from lingo-cellulosic biomass by chemical or biological processes, especially by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis via gasification of biomass

Liquid biofuels


Ethanol produced from biomass and/or from the biodegradable fraction of waste, for use as biofuel. Most ethanol used for fuel is being blended into gasoline at concentrations of 5 to 10 percent. Fuel specification: E"x" contains x percent ethanol and (100-x) percent petrol, e.g. E5 and E85 with 5 and 85 percent of ethanol, respectively. E100 is non-blended bioethanol


A methyl-ester produced from vegetable oil, animal oil, or recycled fats and oils of diesel quality, for use as biofuel. Specification: B"y" contains y percent biodiesel and (100-y) percent petroleum-based diesel, e.g. B5, B30, and B100 (non-blended biodiesel)


Methanol produced from biomass, for use as biofuel


Ethyl-Tertio-Butyl-Ether, produced from bioethanol, used as fuel additive to increase the octane rating and reduce knocking


Methyl-Tertio-Butyl-Ether, produced from bio-methanol, used as fuel additive to increase the octane rating and reduce knocking


Biomass to Liquid (2nd generation biofuels)

Pure vegetable oil

Oil produced from oil plants through pressing, extraction or comparable procedures, chemically unmodified. Usable as biofuel if compatible with the type of engine involved and the corresponding emission requirements

Gaseous biofuels


Dimethylether produced from biomass for use as biofuel

Gaseous biofuels


A fuel gas produced from biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste (in technical equipment, such as agricultural biogas plants which process manure; MBP technology; or as landfill gas), used as a fuel for power stations. Can be purified to natural gas quality


Hydrogen produced from biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste for use as biofuel

Biofuels of the first generation are already being applied and will be more intensively introduced into the markets by 2010. Afterwards biofuels of the second generation will come into application from 2010 to 2020 as a result of intensive research which is already at the stage of demonstration projects (see table 13.6).

Table 13.6 Renewable fuels applicability timescale in the UK (Bauen, 2005)

Commercial applicability


Raw material sources

To 2010


Starch and sugar crops: wheat grain, sugar beet, sugar cane, sorghum, corn


Oil crops and wastes: rapeseed, sunflower, soybean, palm oil, jatropha, waste vegetable oil, waste animal fat


Organic waste from agriculture (animal farming), wet energy crops


Biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas

Same as in the period up to 2010


Fischer-Tropsch diesel

Lignocellulose biomass: straw, wood, biodegradable municipal solid waste


Electrolysis of water using renewable electricity. Biomass feed-stocks (lignocellulose wastes, wet feed-stocks)

There is already considerable biofuel production capacity. It develops very progressively; growth rates of more than 10 percent per year are envisaged.

Bioethanol is the world's main biofuel which was produced in a quantity of around 36.5 Mio t in 2006 (BMELV, 2008). This represents two percent of global petrol use. Two countries, the USA and Brazil, produce more than three-quarters of world's total (see figure 13.5.).

Brazil I

EU 1 I India I Russia □ Canada □ South Africa □

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 Production capacity (Mio t/a )

Figure 13.5 Main ethanol production countries 2006 (BMELV, 2008)

Biodiesel is by about 80 percent of the world's production from the EU (6.07 Mio t/a in 2006), with Germany the main producer with about 5.08 Mio t in 2007 (Bockey, 2007), equivant to 16 percent of the country's total diesel market, followed by Spain, France and Italy. The USA and Malaysia produced 0.83 and 0.60 Mio t/a, respectively (BMELV, 2008). Malaysia is the main producer of oils seeds for biodiesel production.

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