Advancing Biofuel Production

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Editor

Emerson’s director of alternative energy, Al Novak, appears in a recent Forbes magazine article, The Real Promise Of Advanced Biofuels. You may recall Al from prior alternative energy-related posts.

He notes that more than 100 companies are working on many different biofuel production approaches including the conversion of algae, municipal solid waste, wood waste, and crop residues into renewable fuels.

The U.S. federal government established a goal:

…in accordance with the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the country must triple its use of biofuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Al counters some of the arguments on the feasibility of this goal. The first argument is that biofuels aren’t competitive with today’s $80 USD/barrel oil price. He notes that prices will rise and the price of biofuels will fall as the technologies to produce it mature. He cites a GTM Research report that:

…predicts that at the current rate of commercialization, the advanced biofuels market will achieve cost parity with petroleum in 2017 or 2018.

For the argument that new infrastructure will be required, he shares that some of the bio-refineries such as Dynamic Fuels, Virent Energy Systems, and Gevo produce high grade fuel that is, “…nearly identical or in some cases superior in purity to existing petroleum fuels.” As such, they are drop-in replacement fuels. He also notes that the existing knowhow to move biomass to the bio-refining facilities have already been developed by the pulp & paper and ethanol industries.

Al addresses two other common arguments–the scale up challenges from concept to full production and the financial risk-taking required for the advanced biofuels companies to realize their potential. Give the article a read to see how he addresses these concerns.

He summarizes his thoughts on these goals:

Our national goal of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 is clearly attainable–but only if all parties play their part. If they do, the benefits to our security, to the environment and to job creation and our economy will be incalculable.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.