Bioenergy Technology - Advantages & Disadvantages

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Biofuel - the "fuel alternative" to fuel from fossil oil?

With crude oil prices rising faster and higher than ever, scientists and engineers continue to scout for alternative fuel sources which could gradually eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel which is non-renewable. Because of this, there is a lot of buzz on the use of biofuel as an alternative and renewable fuel source.

Biofuel is fuel derived from organic and agricultural products. Examples of sources of biofuel are corn, wheat, sugar cane, palm, algae, and jatropha, to name a few.

Biofuel, Biodiesel or Bioethanol are derived from organic and agricultural products

Fuel and fuel additives, such as biodiesel and bioethanol can be derived from these materials and are processed to be used as fuel, mainly for transportation and machineries that require fuel during operation.

Biofuel can come in solid, liquid, or gaseous form.

The more common forms are liquid bioethanol and biodiesel, which are both used in automotive transport.

Bioethanol comes from starch or sugar crops, which are then fermented to produce ethanol. Biodiesel is derived from oils from plants like palm, soybean, and jatropha, which are processed to reduce viscosity.

Recently, car manufacturers have been encouraged to produce automobile engines that can utilize biofuels. Different mixtures of ethanol with gasoline are available in the market.

  Available Bioethanol, which are used in automotive transport

Car users though, have to be careful in choosing whether to use ethanol in their engines and which mixture to use. Generally, E10, or gasoline with 10% ethanol mix is said to be safe for newer cars. There is already a notable increase in the use of E10 in the US, as well as in Asian countries.

Other blends available are E5 and E7, with 5% and 7% ethanol mixtures, respectively. The lower concentrations of ethanol are generally safe for most engines without adverse effects on the fuel systems.

Higher concentrations, such as E15, E20, E25, and higher concentrations like E85, E95, and E100, are also available but are only recommended for fuel-flexible vehicles (FFV's), or engines that are designed to use high concentrations of ethanol as fuel.

Advantages of Biodiesel and Bioethanol

Engines running on diesel may benefit from biodiesel. This fuel is derived from the methyl or ethyl esters extracted from vegetable oils, which are processed and either used pure or blended with diesel.

Like bioethanol, biodiesel is available in different blends, but for unmodified diesel engines, a maximum blend of 5% can be used.

The use of bio diesel blends higher than 5% require modifications to the engine. Bio diesel is now commercially available from pumps in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

Users may also opt to use bio-diesel as an additive, wherein a certain amount of biodiesel additive is put in their gas tanks depending on the amount of diesel they carry.

Biofuel is definitely a viable alternative to fossil fuel. It is renewable, abundant, and effective, and has less greenhouse gas emissions. With the current shift to more eco-friendly and renewable energy sources, more studies are currently being done to develop and advance the technology to be able to make bio-fuel more popular and available to all. To upgrade biogas via a Sabatier Process, which can utilize anaerobic digestion of biomass at a collection site and produce biogas for later use in a power plant.

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A fuel alternatives to fuels from fossil oil: Biofuel and Biodiesel