Biomass is the oldest source of fuel energy. However, using biomass for the production of transport fuels is a relatively new application with a significant increase during the last 10 to 15 years. Biofuels can substitute fossil derived transport fuels, with the advantage of providing carbon from a renewable source. For complex cellulosic waste materials (e.g. hardwood) the production route requires pretreatment and may be more challenging and costly.
Conventional (1st generation) biofuels are produced from dedicated food crops (sugar, starch, oil), such as palm, rapeseed, soy, beets and cereals (corn, wheat, etc).
Advanced (2nd and 3rd generation) biofuels are produced from feedstock that do not compete directly with food and feed crops. A wide range of sustainable feedstocks are potentially available for the production of advanced biofuels:
- Agricultural residues: field residues such as straw of grain crops and processing residues such as husks, chaff, cobs or bagasse. Estimated 122 Mton in EU, growing up to 139 Mton in 2030(1).
- Forest biomass: residues from harvest operations that are left in the forest after stem wood removal, such as branches, foliage, roots, etc. or complementary fellings; not all forest residues can be removed, some must be left in situ to provide ecological benefits (e.g. to provide habitat, and improve soils). Estimated 40 Mton in EU, consant up to 2030(1).
- Energy crops: “Energy crops” differ from conventional ones because they are typically grown on marginal land not suitable for production of food crops.
- Other biowaste materials
The second option is actually preferred because of global concerns about using food crops for energy purposes, so policy makers are introducing measures to encourage a more diverse range of feedstocks to be used in future.
FLEDGED project addresses the advanced biofuel concept, focusing on the conversion of forest biomass, wastes materials and agricoltural residues to biofuel through gasification and synthesis processes.
More information can be found on European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP).
(1) “Europe’s Untapped Resource – An assessment of Advanced Biofuels from Wastes & Residuals”, 2014