Second generation biofuels are the fuels of the future – renewable, cost effective and produce almost no greenhouse gases compared to fossil fuels.
Biofuels manufacturers have finally struck green gold. Figures released yesterday indicate that, for the first time, biofuels have taken over the main share of the oil market from fossil fuels.
The success is the result of intensive research and development by private companies worldwide, often backed by substantial government funding, in the 2010s and 2020s. A range of second generation biofuel products was produced from a variety of waste materials and algae.
With mass production starting only a decade ago, second generation biofuels proved a runaway success. Their emissions are minimal and they provided a breakthrough in the food versus fuel debates that surrounded bioethanols and other first generation biofuels common earlier this century.
These old-style fuels were mostly made from crops such as sugar cane and corn, which led to competing demands between food and biofuel sources and resulted in soaring food prices.
Although there are numerous products in the biofuel range, the leading products of the new generation of fuels are those made from algae.
Once, plagued by real-world challenges such as the need to harvest algae from shallow lakes or ponds, researchers at companies like Algoil in the UK, are growing their engineered algae in dark stainless steel fermenters, where they convert sugar to oil without the need for sunlight.
Normally, algae absorb sunlight and CO2 – that’s carbon dioxide – to produce plant oils that we then convert to biofuel. But we were able to turn off the algae’s photosynthetic ability, enabling them to produce oil more efficiently and hence making it less costly for us to recover the oil.
The added bonus of using algae is that they need Co2 to produce oil, so they can soak up the pollution and lower the CO2 still in our atmosphere. The future really is looking green!
Last Updated: 18 September 2009
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