Biofuels are a kind of fuel made from plants that shows a great deal of promise for the future of energy. It’s a renewable fuel, which means it can be produced over and over again. It’s also environmentally friendly, which means it’s a safe choice to protect the earth from further damage.
The most important aspect of biofuels is their sustainability. This fuel is produced using plant materials including soy, grasses, corn stalks, and wood chips. The world will continue to grow and produce this plant matter, also known as biomass, and it will never run out. This is unlike other fuel sources that are currently relied upon heavily to power our lives.
Biofuels: Making Energy Out Of Plants
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Keep reading to learn more about biofuels and their power to reduce carbon emissions.
Types Of Biofuels & Their Uses
It’s possible to make biofuels in a number of different ways. But generally speaking, the fuel is produced using heat, fermentation, and chemical reactions to break down plant molecules in sugar, starch, and other forms. This ultimately results in creating materials that are then refined and used to produce fuel for automobiles including cars, trucks, and other vehicles.
Believe it or not, the bulk of the gasoline being produced and consumed in the United States already contains the biofuel most commonly produced. It’s called ethanol and it’s produced by fermenting plant sugars that come from sugar cane and corn among other sources. It also contains a plentiful supply of oxygen, which makes it possible for the engine in a car to burn this fuel efficiently without producing an overabundance of air pollution.
U.S. ethanol is typically derived from corn, and it’s used as part of a 90% gasoline to 10% ethanol mix. On the other hand, fuel in Brazil is mixed with sugarcane-based ethanol at a ratio of 27% ethanol to 73% gasoline.
Biodiesel is another alternative fuel source used in lieu of traditional diesel fuel and just like ethanol, it’s also renewable. It is produced from fats including recycled cooking oil, animal fat, and vegetable oil. It is then blended with petroleum-based diesel.
At the moment, many trucks, buses, and military vehicles in the United States use biodiesel as a fuel for their vehicles. They use a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel fuel. It’s difficult to operate a vehicle using pure biodiesel because it becomes compromised in cold weather, plus it’s occasionally problematic for older vehicles.
This fuel source is a renewable form of natural gas. In fact, biomethane is considered a nearly pure methane source. It achieves near purity through solid biomass gasification or by upgrading biogas, which removes CO2 and contaminants from the fuel mixture.
Biomethane has numerous uses and it’s even possible to use it for transportation. But even more important, it’s considered a solid option to generate electricity and heat.
The foundation of this renewable natural gas can be derived from wastewater, livestock operations, landfills, and additional sources.
What Materials Are Used To Make Biofuel?
The oil that is produced from soybeans is currently a major feedstock for biodiesel (or biofuel) production. The use of methanol or ethanol as well as vegetable oils or animal fats is one of the most common methods of biodiesel production. It is produced in conjunction with sodium hydroxide, which serves as a catalyst. The transesterification reaction creates methyl or ethyl esters (also known as biodiesel) and a byproduct of glycerin.
It’s possible to use a variety of feedstocks or materials to create the various types of biofuels mentioned above. Most people already know that sugarcane and corn are well-established feedstocks for ethanol.
Using corn to process ethanol has been debated for a long time. Many aren’t certain that the environmental benefits provided by corn-based ethanol are worth the large investment, because it takes a great deal of energy to process corn plants.
Startup companies and scientists are beginning to test other materials to discover their potential for creating additional biofuels. They are focusing on using resources that will not add additional concerns due to their impact on the environment or the food supply chain.
One example is called cellulosic ethanol. The cellulosic feedstock is derived from plant materials including wood waste, corn stover, and other plant-based options. These materials are typically considered waste and do not have immediate use, which makes them the perfect option for cellulosic feedstock.
Other examples of possible biofuel feedstocks include animal waste, wastewater sludge, algae, cooking grease, grasses, and other potential cost-effective sources of usable fuel.
Putting Plants To Work To Lower The Cost Of Biofuels
In an effort to make biofuels more competitive, scientists are now using various plants to produce bioproducts and viable chemical compounds during the growth process. They can extract these bioproducts directly from plants and then convert the additional plant material into fuel. When produced this way, this will help lower the overall cost of the final biofuel product.
Researchers are working diligently to determine how much of a particular bioproduct is needed to create an economically feasible biofuel. If they can make a valuable bioproduct, this will lower the cost of biofuel production and create it much more inexpensively over the long term.
The ultimate goal is to make ethanol inexpensive. If they can refine their process and decrease the cost of producing bioproducts, they may ultimately achieve their target selling price of $2.50 a gallon for ethanol.
Common Plants Used For Bio Energy
- Soy – Soybeans are commonly grown in the upper Midwest. There, you can find millions of acres of soy crop. Biodiesel that is made from soybean oil is a clean-burning, non-toxic renewable fuel. This liquid renewable fuel can power any diesel engine without modification. It aids in reducing greenhouse gases as well as particulate emissions.
- Sugar and Starch-Based Ethanol Feedstocks – corn is the main crop in the United States and it serves as the biggest feedstock for the affordable production of ethanol on a large scale. Sugarcane is another popular resource typically used in the second-largest ethanol producer in Brazil.
- Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstocks – this particular type of feedstock is based on non-food items including specifically dedicated energy crops, industrial wastes, crop residues, and wood residues to name a few. The composition of sale elastic feedstocks includes lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose.
The entire world is finally focused and working as one to create environmentally friendly, clean, and affordable fuel sources. Biofuels present an excellent opportunity to develop renewable energy sources that can fuel automobiles, heat homes, and deliver electricity for many years to come.
Only time will tell how effectively we become at producing viable and affordable biofuels. But the greatest scientists in the world are working to solve this problem and they’re doing their absolute best to use existing resources to create biofuel sustainability for many years to come.
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Townsend Energy is offering consumers throughout Northeastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and Maine a cleaner, greener solution with BioPure™ heating oil. This ULSHO is blended with pure biodiesel.
You don’t need to make any costly modifications to your current furnace when switching to BioPure™ heating oil and can experience all of the benefits of using a cleaner-burning fuel.
Give Townsend Energy a call today and let’s discuss how BioPure™ heating oil can get you started in living greener and healthier.