Gaps in the research of 2nd generation transportation biofuels

Jul 2008

This publication is the final report of Task 41, Project 2.
Liquid transportation fuels derived from biomass reduce the dependence on crude oil imports and therefore increase the stability of national fuel markets. Most bioenergy systems generate significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than do fossil fuels and can even be greenhouse gas neutral if efficient methods for biofuels production are developed.
Technologies to produce the first-generation liquid fuels, such as ethanol from starch and sugar, and biodiesel from vegetable oils, are commercially installed. However, fossil fuel replacement is limited due to feedstock availability. Second-generation liquid transportation fuel utilises more abundant biomass such as agricultural and forestry residues. Technologies to convert lignocellulosic biomass into liquid fuels are available, but have not yet been applied to large-scale production.
Funds that promote the development of cellulosic ethanol conversion technologies are limited and must therefore be focused where they can have the most impact. The same applies for the synthetic biofuels.
The purpose of this study was to initiate an analysis of future steps that are needed to achieve a major increase in production of liquid transportation fuels from renewable resources, including consideration of the impact of improved reaction rates, product selectivity, and yields. Improving the process efficiency and the economics of technologies that can produce biofuels on a sustainable basis is the vehicle to reach scale-up in production.
For the sake of completeness, this publication introduces widely commercialised biofuel technologies (Section 2), as well as all currently developed second-generation liquid transportation biofuel technologies. This publication’s focus, however, is on those technologies that still require more R&D.

By: IEA Bioenergy

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