Biofuel

by: Jenny Rivera & Marley Lucas

How is biofuel made

  1. Natural oils from plants like oil palm, soybean, or algae can be burned directly in a diesel engine or a furnace, or blended with petroleum, to produce fuels such as biodiesel. Wood and its byproducts can be converted into liquid biofuels, such as methanol or ethanol, or into woodgas.


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Advantages of biofuels


Biofuels are a renewable energy source in that they are created from plants that can be regrown each year. Biofuels also do not require many changes in cars and other places of use to be utilized. Some consider the use of biofuels as carbon neutral since the carbon produced when burning them is offset by the carbon consumed by the plants they came from. In the United States, biofuels can help reduce the dependence on foreign oils, which fluctuate in price rapidly. Biofuels may help to buffer against the change.

Disadvantages of biofuel

While some consider their use "carbon neutral," the machniery required to farm the plants for biofuels does create carbon emissions, this machinery is also typically not powered by biofuels. Research suggests despite this fact, that biofuels help to reduce carbon emissions by 50-60%.

One of the main detractors to the use of biofuels is that setting aside land for biofuel crops means less land for food production. Some foreign countries have said that it is unethical to use crops for biofuel when global hunger is an ever present problem.

Fun Facts

If you’ve ever been near a campfire or a fireplace, you’ve witnessed biomass energy through the burning of wood

  • Biomass has been around since the beginning of time when man burned wood for heating and cooking
  • Wood was the biggest energy provider in the world in the 1800’s
  • Biogas can also be captured and sold as fuel if not used to generate electricity on site
  • Biomass is a renewable energy source because trees and crops can always be grown

Where biofuels are used.

Biofuel is being used successfully all around the world with new developments continually enhancing its use and availability. Brazil was the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy and remains the biofuel industry leader to date. Its sugarcane ethanol is currently considered to be one of the most successful alternate fuel sources. However, there are limitations to the sustainability of Brazil’s ethanol model in other parts of the world because sugarcane is so adapted for Brazil’s tropical environment and the country has a large amount of farmable land available to devote to this production. Nevertheless, this is a very real energy solution for countries in the tropical regions of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Panama is located in a prime area in Central America and possesses enough arable land available to develop into a world biofuel leader itself. Read more about Panama’s biofuel potential .

biogas


Most commercially available biogas today in Europe is utilized from landfill waste sites. Natural-gas filling stations have recently opened up in the Netherlands, and are also used to distribute biogas. Several European countries, e.g. Sweden and Switzerland, are regularly using biogas as a transport fuel. In fact, towns like Linköping, Sweden have been utilizing biogas to run vehicles for years. In the past decade, after positive trial projects, all 50 of their public transport buses have been converted to use biogas. The world’s first biogas train travels between Linköping and Västervik. Other European towns use buses that run on biogas such as Lille, France. Eventually, the entire town fleet will be converted to run on biogas. Lille has actually begun a large-scale project in biogas production through the fermentation of organic waste at a location alongside the new bus terminal. This biogas is processed into green natural gas sufficient for 100-120 buses. In the Dutch province of Gelderland, 26 buses and over 80 other vehicles run on biogas from eight filling stations.

Biodiesel

In Europe, the biodiesel blends, especially in France, and biodiesel, particularly in Germany, currently have a reasonable market share. In Germany, the infrastructure has been dramatically changed by over 1,900 gas stations selling biodiesel in the country. Germany also now has about 50 trains and over 100 buses running on biodiesel. For nearly 15 years, Vienna has utilized two household refuse collection lorries, a crane lorry, and a bus that runs on rapeseed. Interestingly, Graz, Austria was the first local authority in the world to have each one of its town council transport buses using 100% biodiesel. Accordingly, in Friesland, the Netherlands, some of its recreational boats have run on biodiesel for nearly a decade. In the USA, there are over 400 car fleets running on biodiesel and over 1000 distributors. Many city vehicles like buses utilize biofuel all across the country. For instance, the city San Francisco’s fleet consisting of 1500 vehicles, utilizes biodiesel. Increasingly, a large number of car manufacturers supply models that can run on biodiesel without modifications.