10 Trends & Updates in Biofuel

This post is presented by SBE, the Society for Biological Engineering--a global organization of leading engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing the integration of biology with engineering.

Ethanol molecule

If you're having trouble keeping up with the fast-paced changes in biofuels, the following ten blurbs and links should provide a useful snapshot of biofuel trends. Read on for more about the multitude of stunning new technologies and different feedstocks popping up around the globe; the emergence of third-generation biofuels; and the long slog ahead toward acceptance and commercialization.

1- Ethanol Usage Now Exceeding Feed Usage From Corn
...The latest report of the United States' Department of Agriculture showed that the largest volume of corn produced this year is going to be used for ethanol production.

2- Is Domestically Produced Ethanol Worth the Cost?
...As the USDA noted in a report on gasohol in 1986: ethanol "cannot be justified on economic grounds" and "had no long-term prospect for survival without massive new government assistance."

3- Gevo, South Hampton Ink Isobutanol Production Deal
...Gevo announced it plans to work with South Hampton Resources, Inc., a subsidiary of Arabian American Development, to build a hydrocarbon processing demonstration plant at their facility just outside of Houston in Silsbee, TX.

4- Amyris Accelerates Renewable Diesel, Biobased Chemicals Efforts
Amyris continues its aggressive strategy for commercializing its signature platform chemical, a biobased version of farnesene--trademarked Biofene--and related derivatives made from plant-based sugars that can be converted into various hydrocarbon molecules for fuels or chemicals.

5- Chicken Fat Biofuel: Eco Friendly Jet Fuel Alternative?
...Researchers are testing the biofuel on a NASA DC-8 to measure its performance and emissions as part of the Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiment II. The fuel is called Hydrotreated Renewable Jet Fuel. "It's made out of chicken fat, actually," said Langley's Bruce Anderson, AAFEX II project scientist.

6- Alternative Energy Firm, Joule Unlimited Technologies, Wins Patents
...Joule Unlimited Technologies has made significant progress toward its goal of finding a way to produce 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre, spokeswoman Felicia Spagnoli said yesterday.

7- Despite IPOs, Next-Gen Biofuels Still Creeping Forward in 2011
Despite a series of successful biofuel IPOs and more biofuel IPOs in the pipeline, along with U.S. government support and attention from incumbent oil makers, the production of next-gen biofuels, in any kind of volumes that would make a dent in the transportation sector, seems to be creeping very slowly forward

8-Tequila Gives New Biofuel Crops a Shot
...production of agave-ethanol led to the net emission of 35g of carbon dioxide for each megajoule of energy, far lower than the 85g/MJ estimated for corn ethanol. In comparison, burning petrol emits about 100g/MJ and some estimates of corn ethanol suggest it is worse than petrol.

9- The 30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals and Materials

...Among the Hot 30, 7 companies specialize in renewable chemicals and materials, 9 companies represent industry suppliers and strategic investors, and 14 represent integrated biorefineries making chemicals, materials and fuels. 25 are primarily US-based companies and 5 are from other countries. 23 companies also are ranked in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy for 2010-11.

10- Whiskey to Energy Project in Scotland Gets the Green Light for Construction
...Using wood chips and waste from the distilling process, the new plant, a venture by Helius Energy and the Combination of Rothes Distillers, will produce enough energy to power 9,000 homes.

In your opinion, what's the most promising trend in biofuel today?

Photos: Corn stalks: Andrea Booher- FEMA, Wikicommons; chickens: istockphoto.com
Graphic: Ethanol molecule- PD wikicommons
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