Bio Fuel

Basic Operation and Description

Bio fuel is either a solid, liquid or gas form that has been extracted from a biomass system. In recent years research in this field has taken a giant leap forward do to the unprecedented increase in the price of crude oil fuels. Interest has developed among many governments around the world because of the alarming increase of greenhouse gasses caused by the release of spent fuels.

Typical Bio Fuel Diststillary
Typical Bio Fuel Distillery

Biomass usually consists of organic waste produced by human, animal or plant activity. Cultivation can grow material for producing bio-fuels such as corn, sugarcane, soybeans, palm oil, flaxseed, jatropha, and rapeseed. Others are animal excreta, biodegradable waste from industries like timber, rice husks, straw, decomposed food and sewage. All these materials are turned into biogas with the help of anaerobic digestion. This carbon cycle organic compound is utilized for the production of bio-fuel. Research has suggested utilizing micro algae along with other supplements such as hydrogen, bio-diesel, ethanol, methane, and methanol as an alternate source of fuel. Bio-fuels aren't a new invention they have existed since before World War II. Scientists like Rudolf Van Diesel invented a peanut oil fuel and Nikolaus August Otto invented Ethanol as a substitute for non-renewable fuel resources.

The founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford designed the Ford Model T car, which ran on Ethanol. But after the discovery of crude oil, which was cheap and easy to extract, bio fuel research suffered a setback. Due to the alarming rise in oil prices, pollution and diminishing non-renewable fuels, the worlds focus is shifting to bio fuels. George W. Bush, the President of the United States in 2007, has stated that by 2025, seventy five percent of the usage of crude oil fuels will be replaced by bio fuels. An amount of $375 million US dollars has been designated for bio-energy research at centers across America. In 2005, United States was the largest ethanol fuel producing country with the production of sixteen billion liters. The European Union has published that by the year 2020; nearly nineteen million tons of fuel will be available from bio mass and out of which fifty percent will be derived from organic waste. Bio-fuel's popularity is increasing day by day in the automotive sector.

Research on corn-derived ethanol has being taken one step further to produce a cellulose ethanol, which can be easily derived from grass and plants without affecting the food chain. In the process of production of bio fuels major amounts of non-renewable resource are being used presently. Additionally the total carbon produced is less when compared to other sources. Carbon is present due to the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by plants for their growth. The concept of a carbon neutral is being developed so as not to deplete forests in large amounts and to maintain the level of carbon in the air. Presently bio fuels are not used as a standalone fuel; it is mixed in oils and fuels used for different purposes.

According to the Well-to-Wheel analysis which considers carbon and energy costs of the manufacturing and consumption of fuels, nearly sixty percent of carbon emissions can be reduced using first generation bio fuels and nearly eighty percent can be reduced by use of second generation bio fuels, when compared to the usage of non-renewable fuels. The first generation bio fuel consists of fuels derived from vegetable and animal fats, sugar and starch. The derivatives are bio-diesel, butanol, alcohols, ethanol, methanol, biogas and vegetable oil. The second-generation fuels are derived from lignocelluloses biomass feedstock and they are produced by biomass system using liquid technology. The derivatives are DMF, bio-DME, fischer-tropsch diesel, bio-methanol, HTU diesel, and mixed alcohols. 

Bio fuels used for transportation purposes can be broadly classified into the following categories: bio-ethanol, bio-diesel and biogas. Bio-ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel, which is produced from the process of sugar or starch fermentation. Bio-diesel is produced from vegetable and animal oils waste and biogas is produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste and is also used to produce electricity.

The sudden increase in the usage of bio fuels has created a demand for farmers to not only grow crops for food but also for the production of bio fuels. Research has been carried out to utilize the non-edible part of the plants and fast growing grass. The cellulose in the stalks complements the process because they contain a very high complex of hydrocarbons, which are the building blocks of gas and diesel fuel. The production of bio fuels has an impact on the environment that cannot be neglected. Although the aim is to stop damage to the environment, transportation and other processes involve the consumption of crude oil fuels on a large scale releasing harmful gases like nitrogen oxides on the pretext of decreasing the carbon output.

Basic Maintenance

The most commonly used bio-fuel for transportation in the United States is gasohol or E10. It consists of ninety percent gasoline and ten percent ethanol. In 1998, a rule was enforced to use E20 and E85 fuels with small changes. When using bio fuels care must be taken to modify the engine fuel system accordingly or risk damaging the fuel system especially in traditional diesel engines.

Article first published (Updated 2015-01-05)