4 things you should know about biofuels

You may have heard the term biofuel or seen the signs for E10 or B5 without really recognising what they stand for – well the signs represent biofuel and biodiesel respectively.

But what exactly are biofuels, and why should we use them? In contrast to finite fossil fuel resources such as coal and oil, biofuels are liquid fuels made from sustainable feedstocks, agricultural and municipal wastes and residues, animal fats and recycled cooking oils.

A report on the Huffington Post indicated that while making fuel from waste products might sound a bit odd, global biofuel production is reducing reliance on fossil fuels and contributing to the renewable energy revolution which includes solar, wind and hydro power generation.

Currently, it is not clear if Nigeria has any biorefineries, but the government through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has begun moves to leverage the country’s biofuel potentials.

For the records, the most popular bio based ethanol fuel contains a blend of 10 per cent ethanol and 90 per cent conventional petroleum, while the commonly used bio based diesel fuel contain just 5 per cent biodiesel.

Following government renewed interest in biofuel, the industry could become a huge money spinner. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has also indicated it would set out $50 billion to support investments that would lead to the development of a domestic biofuel industry in Nigeria.

However, from the Huffington Post, OGN picked 4 quick info about biofuels that Nigerians should know ahead of the likely take-off of the industry:

1. Biofuels are made from plant by-products and recycled oils.

As opposed to synthetic ethanol made from finite resources such as coal and gas, bioethanol uses glucose from sugar cane and molasses, starch from corn and grain, or cellulose. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils such as canola, animal fats or recycled greases.

Bioenergy expert Dr. Stephen Schuck, manager of Bioenergy Australia, said researchers are also looking into other organic matter to increase production. “Conventional biofuels are a stepping stone towards a much larger future and wider range of liquid biofuels,” he said. Adding, “A wider range of feedstocks and production processes will bring down processing costs, and lower the cost of fuel.”

2. Biofuels are better for the environment and your health

Dr. Schuck said numerous national and global studies have shown that biofuels burn cleaner than fossil fuels.

“Time and time again these studies show that the performance of some of these conventional liquid biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to their fossil fuel equivalent,” he said.

3. Biofuel supports farmers and creates jobs

More demand for biofuel could create long-term and stable markets for sugarcane and sorghum, which in turn increases farmers’ jobs and employment.

4. Ethanol can give more grunt than regular fuel

Bioethanol is reported to actually have a higher octane rating than regular gasoline. It is so much so, that E85 bioethanol is reportedly the fuel of choice for the V8 Supercars.