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Oct 23, 2009

Second-generation biofuels on the brink of commercial breakthrough, says study

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Pretreatment and gasification technologies are on the verge of making second-generation biofuels a commercial reality, according to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan, entitled ‘Worldwide Market Analysis of Second Generation Biofeedstock’.

Developments in the pretreatment and gasification of biofeedstock through discrete hydrolysis and fermentation, and gasification and catalytic synthesis have the potential to reduce the production costs of second-generation biofuels.

The use of second-generation biofeedstock, such as agricultural residue, forest residue and black liquor, is currently 
limited to power generation in combined heat and power (CHP) plants or regeneration units. Second-generation biofeedstock has, however, been extensively researched as a potential source of liquid fuels for transportation. Over time, technological advances 
are expected to make these second-generation biofuels commercially viable.

“The use of second-generation biofuels is expected to reduce 
the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), particularly carbon 
dioxide (CO2), from combustion engines by 80% to 85% in comparison with conventional fossil fuels. The lifecycle emissions for second-generation biofuels are in the negative range, which implies consumption of CO2 rather than emission,” notes Frost & Sullivan senior research analyst Phani Raj Kumar Chinthapalli.

Major automotive companies are investigating the environmental benefits of second-generation biofuels. They are looking at 
reducing emission levels while 
remaining competitive with the use of corn or maize that can be deployed as biofeedstock for transportation fuels.

Climate change related to GHG emissions is a concern for many companies, and many industries are attempting to achieve sustainability across their value chains.

“In addition to supporting energy efficient processes in 
industries, second-generation 
biofeedstock and the technologies used to convert them into bio-
fuels are expected to lower GHG emissions in the transportation sector,” he adds. “The commercial production of second-generation biofuels is poised to reach five-billion gallons a year by the end of 2015.”

Current demonstration second-
generation biofuel plants are using single biofeedstock sources, 
which are either forest residue or agricultural residue, to name a few. However, it will take some time before the supply chains of these different feedstock sources are better established.

“The future of biofuel plants will lie in effectively converting multiple feedstock into biofuels. These multiple feedstock supplies must constantly be replenished and the technology should optimally convert the entire range of economically viable second-generation biofeedstock,” he cautions.

He notes that second-generation biofuels will slowly, but surely, have an impact on energy 
share globally; however, this 
impact may not be significant in the short term. Unless technology 
winners introduce large-scale plants at an affordable rate, such change is unlikely to occur until the end of 2017.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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