Biofuel is any fuel that’s derived from biomass, which includes animal waste, algae, or plant matter. The term “bio” refers to the organic nature of the fuel sources as it’s not produced geologically like fossil fuels (coal and petroleum). Biofuel is a renewable source of energy since it’s derived from replenishable matter (biomass), and it’s easy to extract.
Types of Biofuel
There are three main types of biofuel, and they include:
Ethanol is essentially ethyl alcohol or pure alcohol, and it’s the most common alternative biofuel used in cars today. While ethanol can be made from different sources, the most common are sugarcane and corn.
The ethanol making process involves the fermentation of high carbon content matter, mainly cellulose and sugars extracted from sugarcane or corn. Naturally, ethanol is clean, releasing roughly 15% less greenhouse gas emissions. It’s usually incorporated with other fuels to reduce carbon emissions.
In large-scale sugarcane producing countries such as Brazil, most motor-vehicles are powered by 100% ethanol. In 2011, the US government approved the use of ethanol blends of up to 15% in car models newer than 2001.
But, people have used ethanol blends of 10% for years with no need for modifications. Unfortunately, there are controversies surrounding the sustainability of ethanol.
Biodiesel is a liquid biofuel that’s derived from a combination of vegetables and fats, and oils from both animals and plants. Some manufacturers simply collect used restaurant oil to make biodiesel. To obtain pure biodiesel, manufacturers focus on plants with high energy content.
Alcohol is also a key ingredient in the manufacture of biodiesel. Biodiesel is quickly gaining popularity as finding recycled cooking grease, vegetable oils, and animal fat is quite easy. Compared to petroleum-based diesel, biodiesel minimizes tailpipe emissions, and it burns cleaner. It also doesn’t contain sulfur, which eliminates sulfur dioxide emissions.
In most countries, biodiesel production infrastructure isn’t on a mass-scale, making it commercially expensive to produce.
Although biobutanol isn’t as popular as biodiesel and ethanol, it’s the only biofuel with the most potential. Biobutanol is much like biodiesel, but it’s derived from algae or bacteria instead of plant or animal fats.
Biobutanol has a higher energy per unit content than methanol and ethanol, and it has the potential to be used directly in standard gasoline engines with no modifications. Since biobutanol is difficult to produce, it’s less well known, making production costs relatively high.
Luckily, it offers users numerous benefits such as:
- It’s non-corrosive to pipelines and engines
- Its high octane level ensures there’s zero or little loss in fuel mileage
- It can use existing supply and pipeline chain infrastructure for distribution
Other types of biofuel
Some other forms of biofuel include:
This is a gaseous form of biofuel that is produced from the anaerobic breakdown of biomass. Biogas mainly consists of methane gas, and it’s commonly used in agricultural firms, but it can be packaged into gas cylinders for home use.
Like ethanol, methanol is an alcohol used in motor vehicles. It’s produced through the gasification of biomass at extremely high temperatures with a catalyst.
Biofuel Testing with AmSpec Services
AmSpec provides quality inspection and testing services to biofuel refiners, producers, blenders, distributors, consumers and research facilities. The biofuel products include biodiesel, ethanol and other fuels blended with these products. Contact us today to learn more about our biofuel analysis and testing services.