It’s a new year, and it already looks like we are headed toward a new era in the world of bioenergy.
New sources for biofuel
A significant shift in the bioenergy industry is the sourcing of material used in the production of biodiesel. Biodiesel is made from a variety of plant and animal-based materials such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and other waste animal fats.
How is it made? The waste product is transformed in a chemical processed called transesterification. In this process, glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil leaving behind methyl esters. Methyl ester is the technical name for biodiesel.
A market survey of feedstock trends intelligence and forecasts for 2020 published by Emerging Markets Online revealed a shift in the sourcing of materials for the production of biodiesel from traditional farm crops and recycled cooking oils to non-food feedstocks. Simply put, they’ve determined the demand for alternative fuels has outpaced the traditional sources of material, and countries worldwide are identifying new plants to be grown specifically for biodiesel production.
From the survey: “Biodiesel feedstock markets world-wide are in transition from increasingly expensive first-generation feedstocks soy, rapeseed and palm oil to alternative, lower cost, non-food feedstocks. As a result, a surge in demand for alternative feedstocks is driving new growth opportunities in the sector.”
Innovative discoveries may create cleaner biodiesel
New advances in the scientific makeup of biodiesel blends may make significant improvements to engine life and air cleanliness, too. Take a look at the inventive work of a group of scientists as part of the Department of Energy’s Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines initiative (called “Co-Optima”).
The Co-Optima team identified a specific molecule that can be produced from biomass called 4-butoxyheptane. This molecule piques their interest because it contains a high proportion of oxygen. That’s important because of oxygen’s potential to offset hydrocarbons in petroleum-derived diesel fuel resulting in cleaner burning. By blending 4-butoxyheptane with traditional diesel, they created a fuel that improves ignition quality, reduces sooting, and improves fuel economy. It’s a really technical process and more experiments are needed, but it illustrates our potential to continue improving the cleanliness of sustainable fuel sources.
Interested in what’s new in the world of alternative fuels and how you can take advantage of innovations to decrease your dependence on petroleum while increasing clean air and water in your community? Contact us at the Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition today!