Saturday, March 25, 2006

Growing biofuels, moving to widespread use

Growing Biofuels offers an interesting perspective on what it will take to move biofuels (of which biodiesel is one) from a niche to widespread use.  For most purposes, todays biofuels start from the same feedstocks that produce foods like corn syrup or vegetable oil.  This makes for an economic entanglement where high food prices causes high biofuel prices.

Another factoid comes from a study in Canada.  "Diverting half of Canada's canola oil exports into biofuel production would yield only enough biodiesel to meeet 2.7 percent of current diesel demand in Canada".  Indicating that meeting biodiesel needs by diverting food production is a little counterproductive.

The article goes on to discuss an alternative approach.  Using biomass the source is not from material normally meant for food, but is instead leftover biological material like wood chips.

Choren Industries (partnered with Royal Dutch Shell) has developed a method derived from the Fischer-Tropsch method.  That method was used by the Nazi Germany war machine to power their war machines even when they didn't have a source of regular oil.  The Fischer-Tropsch method allowed them to convert coal to gasoline.  Choren has refined the method and is using it to turn any biomass into a liquid fuel.