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Bio-Fuels : A Greener Alternative & Fuel of the Future


The Fuel of the Future: Bio-Fuels- the 2nd generation fuel

The EU like most of the world needs to reduce its dependence on oil & gas. By 2020, at once ten per cent of the energy used in the transport sector to come from renewable sources. In order to meet this target, manufacturers have been developing cars which run on alternative fuels such as electricity and bio-fuels. These fuels are the fuel of the future, it’s the byproducts of industrial waste for example gases, alcohols, organic compounds, and oils. They originally come from vegetable or animal matter.


There are two main types of so-called first generation biofuels via diesel made for example from rapeseed, sunflower or, soybean oil and bioethanol produced from plants such as sugar beet, sugarcane, cereal crops, wheat, or maize and blended with diesel. The advantage of this alternate energy source helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions wherein the drawback is its production can have damaging environmental consequences such as water pollution, deforestation, and change of land use.


For example, a farmland traditionally used to grow crops for food supply is often being diverted for biofuels production. This was one of the triggers of the 2007-08, world food price crisis. To counter the problem research is developing ways of replacing current biofuel production methods with so-called second generation processes using what is known as biomass, organic waste, wood chippings straw and, hay. This reduces the impact on the food chain but is a more complicated process requiring sophisticated technology using a thermo-chemical route that involves producing combustible gas or liquid such as diesel or jet fuel. The biochemical method typically uses the cellulose found in plants to ferment ethanol.


In 2012, UPM started building a hydro-treatment bio-refinery in Finland. Once ready in summer 2014, it will have a yearly production capacity of 100,00 tons of high-quality renewable diesel. UPM BioVerno for road transport, UPM BioVerno diesel is produced from crude tall oil, a residue of pulp process. This renewable raw material originates from sustainably managed forests. The whole process results in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. To a great extent, the credit goes to the research and development team in UPM research centre, part of the innovation in wood-based advanced biofuels.


According to the UPM Research Center, the first tips for European biofuels namely, the idea of producing renewable diesel from crude oil but for here in the centre it has been developed further by the researchers and key partners. UPM plans to become a major player in advanced biofuels, the front-runner in quality, usability, and sustainability of biofuels. UPM biofuels aim to grow by converting solid biomass into the advanced biofuels. A lot of effort is put in the research and technology development. In the long term, we are looking for possibilities to expand with new raw materials and emerging technologies. There are a lot of things going on in the research centre as the researchers are focusing clearly on new generation fuels based on residues.

The thermochemical conversion process uses heat to break down biomass into intermediates such as gas or bio-oil which can be upgraded into fuel and other products. One type of thermochemical conversion is pyrolysis, a method that uses heat to decompose biomass in the absence of oxygen. For example, wood material such as forest residue is a common feedstock for the pyrolysis process. For best results feedstock particles are less than two millimetres in size and have less than ten per cent of moisture content by weight. The process of pyrolysis heats the biomass at a moderate temperature in the absence of oxygen, producing vapours that are condensed into liquid bio-oil. Char is also produced during the pyrolysis process. Cleanup and stabilization of the bio-oil make it more suitable for storage downstream processing and end-use. Cleanup can consist of filtering up particulates and ash before the bio-oil is condensed into a liquid. Stabilization usually involves a mild hydro-treating process where hydrogen is used to remove contaminants like sulfur, nitrogen, or oxygen. Hydro-treating is possible at high hydrogen pressures in the presence of catalysts. Other processes to remove oxygen are also being examined; the eliminating oxygen creates less reactive bio-oil with lower acidity. The less reactive bio-oil may be stored longer and is more suitable for use as a fuel oil. The less acidic bio-oil may be more readily accepted into current infrastructure by achieving chemical compatibility with infrastructure materials such as pipes, reactors and, tanks. Severe hydro-treating which is required for the bio-oil to be suitable for use in a conventional petroleum refinery at several insertion points is done after the mild hydro-treating if required. Then using technologies employed by existing refineries today the bio-oil goes through a hydro-cracking process, which tailors the molecule sizes to be in the desired range for gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

The department of energy is the supporting development of innovative technologies that result in higher quality bio-oil that lowers subsequent upgrading costs allows for longer storage and improves commercial viability. Advancing these technologies will help bring clean renewable transportation fuels to the marketplace that can be used in the place of petroleum.

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