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Study looks at biofuels potential

A newly published study by Nexant Inc, Liquid Biofuels: Substituting for Petroleum looks at current, emerging, and potential future technologies to produce biogasoline and biodiesel, considering all key elements of the value chain, including agricultural, logistical, and processing.

Emphasizing techno-economic modeling, it details development trends around the world and analyzes key policy drivers, including rural development, energy independence, and reduced carbon footprint, and considers a full range of technical, feedstock, and alternative biofuel product options.

The study concludes that fatty acid methyl ester biodiesel will probably be a transition technology, capable of substituting for only a small fraction of global diesel demand. However, as a biodegradable, low-toxicity product, it will likely hold market share far into the future.

Bioethanol from grains and sugar, though an excellent high-octane gasoline blendstock, has many practical problems and is also likely to be transitional over the long term. Nexant projects that the next phase of development is likely to be ethanol made by fermentation of sugars obtained through biomass hydrolysis.

Nexant also concludes that, perhaps sooner than some may believe, integrated thermochemical platforms will take the lead in producing both gasoline and diesel range biofuels (biomass-to-liquids), similar to coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids), most likely in conjunction with electric power and chemicals. This alternative should be, and probably will be, pursued contemporaneously with developing biomass-based ethanol.

Regardless of which substrate is used to produce it, ethanol will eventually need to be dehydrated to hydrocarbon gasoline fractions that are more compatible with the existing fuel distribution and vehicle infrastructure.

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