Biofuels, The New Key Player in Renewable Energy
A Quick Definition of What Biofuels Are
A biofuel is an energy source that comes from living organisms or the waste they produce and is therefore from a biological process as opposed to a geological one such as fossil fuels. A biofuel can be directly derived from plants but also indirectly from commercial, domestic and agricultural waste.
You can also use the conversion of biomass to create biofuel in three different ways:
- Thermal conversion: heat the biomass to convert it.
- Biochemical conversion: use microorganisms to perform the conversion.
- Chemical conversion: Apply to biomass same chemical processes as for coal for example to convert it into a fuel.
You will thus get a fuel that can be solid, liquid or at a gas state. It is up to you to decide at which state you prefer to use your biomass fuel, but it is generally done at a solid state as it is in use with biomass boiler.
What Are the Main Sources of Biofuel?
- The first generation of biofuels concerns already known processes that are used to convert sugar, oil and animal fats into fuel. The biofuels that are produced through this technique are biodiesel, bioalcohols, ethanol and biogas (methane);
- The second generation of biofuels deals with agricultural waste such as wood chips, willow or switchgrass;
- The third generation involves biofuels made out of quick growing biomass sources (for example algae);
- The fourth and last generation of biofuels comes from biomass, a topic already seen previously in this article.
The major biofuels currently in production are:
- Biodiesel, that comes from seed oils such as sunflower or soybean but can also be produced using fats from vegetables of animals.
- Ethanol that is an alcohol providing from corn or sugarcane. It is usually incorporated with gasoline to operate combustion engines.
Current Controversy Regarding the Production of Biofuels
Nowadays, a debate has arisen concerning the impacts of the production intensification of biofuels. It is clear that biofuel comes from bio sourced products and therefore does not use fossil fuels that take a long time to regenerate. The production of CO2 during its production is compensated by the photosynthesis of the plants while growing in the fields.
However, the turn towards biofuel production has led landowners to change radically their production that consequently has deregulated the surrounding ecosystems. Some scientists say it will take between 100 to 1,000 years to payback the carbon debt acquired due to change in land use. Even more frightening, the development of biofuel production has aggravated deforestation in particular in Brazil and in Indonesia (Borneo Island).
Are You Interested in Renewable Energy?
There are different ways one can contribute with the enviroment and reduce carbon emissions. One thing we are responsible for is our own homes. How well insulated is it? How much energy do I use? How much of this energy is green? Is there anything I could do different? Solar panels, heat pumps and boilers are good options if you are willing to make your home more sustainable and less harmful to the environment.
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