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Biofuel Production from Biomass

What is Biomass?

Biomass refers to the biological material derived from living or recently dead organisms that is used as feedstock to manufacture biofuels. Although biomass can either be combusted in isolation or co-combusted with coal to generate electricity, it can also be converted to liquid transportation fuels (bioliquids) and biogas for gas-specific power generation.


Classification of biofuel types

Most of the biomass used today is sourced from three main areas: forests, agriculture and waste. This includes virgin wood from the conventional cutting of trees, wood residues from sawmills and other wood processing industries, agricultural energy crops, agricultural residues and waste.

Converting biomass to bioethanol

Feedstocks for the conversion of biomass to bioethanol include food crops such as corn, sugar cane, sugar beet, grain, sunflower, wheat and straw. After a crop has been grown and harvested, it is refined further in readiness for conversion. Sugars, for example, can be recovered using various extraction methods or biochemically using enzymes. The main biomass to bioethanol conversion mechanism is fermentation e.g. the fermentation of sugars to produce ethanol. After the fermentation process has been completed, the ethanol produced can be distilled in purification columns to obtain higher concentrations of the product.

Converting biomass to biodiesel

The production of biodiesel from biomass involves the conversion of various types of waste feedstocks, including vegetable oils, animal fats or waste oils, in a reaction process known as transesterification. Transesterification is the reaction between a triglyceride and an alcohol, such as ethanol, in the presence of a catalyst (usually potassium hydroxide) to produce alkyl esters and glycerol.


Comparison between biodiesel finished product and waste vegetable oil 

Biofuels for transportation

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