'First-generation fuels refer to biofuels made from sugar, starch, vegetable oil, or animal fats using conventional technology'
The most common first generation biofuels are listed below.
See also : Vegetable oil used as fuel
Vegetable oil can be used for either food or fuel; the quality of the oil may be lower for fuel use. Vegetable oil can be used in many older diesel engines (equipped with indirect injection systems), but only in warm climates. In most cases, vegetable oil is used to manufacture biodiesel, which is compatible with most diesel engines when blended with conventional diesel fuel. No engine manufacturer explicitly states that straight vegetable oil can be used in their engines.
Used vegetable oil (e.g. from deep fat fryers) can be filtered and processed into biodiesel.
Biodiesel is the most common biofuel in Europe. It is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is a liquid similar in composition to mineral diesel. Its chemical name is fatty acid methyl (or ethyl) ester (FAME). Oils are mixed with sodium hydroxide and methanol (or ethanol) and the chemical reaction produces biodiesel (FAME) and glycerol. 1 part glycerol is produced for every 10 parts biodiesel.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine when mixed with mineral diesel. In some countries manufacturers cover their diesel engines under warranty for 100% biodiesel use, although Volkswagen Germany, for example, asks drivers to make a telephone check with the VW environmental services department before switching to 100% biodiesel (see biodiesel use). Many people have run their vehicles on biodiesel without problems. However, the majority of vehicle manufacturers limit their recommendations to 15% biodiesel blended with mineral diesel. In many European countries, a 5% biodiesel blend is widely used and is available at thousands of gas stations.
In the USA, more than 80% of commercial trucks and city buses run on diesel. Therefore "the nascent U.S. market for biodiesel is growing at a staggering ratefrom 25 million gallons per year in 2004 to 78 million gallons by the beginning of 2005. By the end of 2006 biodiesel production was estimated to increase fourfold to more than 1 billion gallons," energy expert Will Thurmond writes in an article for the July-August 2007 issue of THE FUTURIST magazine.
Ethanol is the most common biofuel worldwide. It is an alcohol fuel. It is produced by fermentation of sugars derived from wheat, corn, sugar beet and sugar cane. The production methods used are enzymatic digestion (to release sugars from stored starches e.g. from wheat and corn), fermentation of the sugars, distillation and drying. Ethanol can be used in petrol engines as a replacement for gasoline; it can be mixed with gasoline to any percentage, see common ethanol fuel mixtures for information on ethanol. All petrol engines can run on blends of up to 15% bioethanol with petroleum/gasoline. For higher percentage blends, engine modifications are needed. Many car manufacturers are now producing flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on any combination of bioethanol and petrol, up to 100% bioethanol.
Butanol is often claimed to provide a direct replacement for gasoline. It is not in widespread production, and engine manufacturers have not made statements about its use[verification needed]. While on paper (and a few lab tests) it appears that butanol has sufficiently similar characteristics with gasoline such that it should work without problem in any gasoline engine, no widespread experience exists. Butanol is formed by ABE fermentation (acetone, butanol, ethanol) and experimental modifications of the process show potentially high net energy gains with butanol as the only liquid product. Butanol will produce more energy and allegedly can be burned "straight" in existing gasoline engines (without modification to the engine or car) , and is less corrosive and less water soluble than ethanol, and could be distributed via existing infrastructures.
Methanol is currently produced from natural gas, a fossil fuel. It can also be produced from biomass. The methanol economy is an interesting alternative to the hydrogen economy.
Biologically produced alcohols, most commonly ethanol and less commonly propanol and butanol, are produced by the action of microorganisms and enzymes through fermentation.
Biogas is produced by the process of anaerobic digestion of organic material by anaerobes. It can be produced either from biodegradable waste materials or by the use of energy crops fed into anaerobic digesters to supplement gas yields. The solid byproduct, digestate, can be used as a biofuel or a fertiliser.
Biogas contains methane and can be recovered from industrial anaerobic digesters and mechanical biological treatment systems. Landfill gas is a less clean form of biogas which is produced in landfills through naturally occurring anaerobic digestion. If it escapes into the atmosphere it is a potent greenhouse gas.
Oils and gases can be produced from various biological wastes:
Thermal depolymerization of waste can extract methane and other oils similar to petroleum.
GreenFuel Technologies Corporation developed a patented bioreactor system that uses nontoxic photosynthetic algae to take in smokestacks flue gases and produce biofuels such as biodiesel, biogas and a dry fuel comparable to coal.
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