Biofuels' Role in the 21st Century Energy Mix
An Overview of Regulations, Technologies and Markets
Are advanced biofuels the future of sustainable fuel? Is electrification a threat to biofuels' role in the transport sector? What are the prospects for biofuels in the road freight, aerospace and shipping sectors? What is the global outlook for the biofuels industry?
"Advanced biofuels have been touted as the next step in biofuels production for decades. But so far they have been held back by high production costs, inhibiting cost competitiveness with other liquid fuel sources, and keeping the pricing points necessary for a widespread scaling up in production capacity out of reach. It will be welcome news, then, that the 2017 World Ethanol & Biofuels conference saw several indications that the long-awaited roll out of second generation biofuels may now indeed be both imminent and economically viable. It also brought warnings, though, that such a roll out can only take place if decision makers move to safeguard the technology’s sources of investment.
It is not difficult to see why advanced, cellulosic biofuels are such an attractive prospect for regulators and the general public. As POET’s Doug Berven points out, “cellulose is the world’s most abundant compound except for water… every country produces some form of cellulose, which means that every country can produce some amount of energy.” What’s more, as cellulose is obtained as a waste product from ongoing agricultural processes, the argument that biofuel production may compete for land use with other crops – with a possible inflationary effect on food prices – can be set aside.
POET is currently engaged in producing cellulosic biofuels through Project Liberty, an Iowa based production facility processing corn stover biomass sourced from within a 30 mile radius of the plant. In the three years that Project Liberty has been operational, it has already made impressive strides. The project is running an 80% uptime in pre-treatment due to a total reengineering of the pre-treatment process. The enzymes used to break down the cellulose molecules are all produced on site, and the project expects an increase in the contracted tonnage of biomass from 95,000 in 2017 to 220,000 in 2018, with a success rate achieved of 72 gallons of ethanol produced per bone dry ton of biomass. GHG savings for the produced ethanol are in the region of 85-95%, compared to an industry average of 66%..."