Biofuel – an environment friendly energy source



The known petroleum reserves of the world a limited natural resource. Various studies put the date of the global peak in oil production between 1996 and 2035.This means that after 2035 there is a gradual decrease in oil production and world demand for fuel increase as supply (production) decreases gradually. So the world population has to move their faces towards the biofuel in order to fulfill their fuel needs. Biomass energy technologies use waste or plant matter to produce energy with a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel sources. In developing countries (Pakistan) there is a growing trend towards employing modern technologies and efficient bio-energy conversion using a range of biofuels, which are becoming cost-wise competitive with fossil fuels .

Bio-fuel resources are more evenly distributed than fossil and nuclear resources, and energy flows from renewable resources are more than three orders of magnitude higher than current global energy use. Todays energy system is unsustainable because of equity issues as well as environmental, economic, and geopolitical concerns that have implications far into the future.

The transport sector is a major consumer of petroleum fuels such as diesel, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). This sector is likely to suffer badly because of the following reasons: (a) Prices of petroleum in global market are raising trend; (b) Petroleum reserves are limited and it is monopoly of some oil-importing countries and rest of the world depends on them; (c) Number of vehicles based on petroleum fuels is on increase worldwide.

Many research programmes recently focus on the development of concepts such as renewable (Bio-fuel) resources, sustainable development, green energy, eco-friendly process, etc. in the transportation sector. In developed countries there is a growing trend towards employing modern technologies and efficient bio-energy conversion using a range of biofuels, which are becoming cost-wise competitive with fossil fuels .

The term biofuel is referred to liquid, gas and solid fuels predominantly produced from biomass.

Biofuels include energy security reasons, environmental concerns, foreign exchange savings, and socioeconomic issues related to the rural sector. Biofuels include bioethanol, bio-methanol, vegetable oils, biodiesel, biogas, bio-synthetic gas (bio-syngas), bio-oil, bio-char, Fischer-Tropsch liquids, and bio-hydrogen. The biggest difference between biofuels and petroleum feed stocks is oxygen content. Biofuels have oxygen levels from 10 per cent to 45 per cnet while petroleum has essentially none making the chemical properties of biofuels very different from petroleum. All have very low sulfur levels and many have low nitrogen levels.

Most traditional biofuels, such as ethanol from corn, wheat, or sugar beets, and biodiesel from oil seeds, are produced from classic agricultural food crops that require high-quality agricultural land for growth. Bioethanol is a petrol additive or substitute. Bioethanol can be produced from plentiful, domestic, cellulosic biomass resources such as herbaceous and woody plants, agricultural and forestry residues, and a large portion of municipal solid waste and industrial waste streams. Production of bioethanol from biomass is one way to reduce both the consumption of crude oil and environmental pollution.

Biodiesel is an environmentally friendly alternative liquid fuel that can be used in any diesel engine without modification. There has been renewed interest in the use of vegetable oils for making biodiesel due to its less polluting and renewable nature as against the conventional petroleum diesel fuel. Due to its environmental merits, the share of biofuel in the automotive fuel market will grow fast in the next decade. There are several reasons for biofuels to be considered as relevant technologies by both developing and industrialized countries. Biofuels include energy security reasons, environmental concerns, foreign exchange savings, and socioeconomic issues related to the rural sector. The biofuel economy will grow rapidly during the 21st century. Its economy development is based on agricultural production and most people live in the rural areas. In the most biomass-intensive scenario, modernized biomass energy contributes by 2050 about one half of total energy demand in developing countries.

Advantages of biofuels are the following: (a) biofuels are easily available from common biomass sources, (b) they are represent a carbon dioxide-cycle in combustion, (c) biofuels have a considerable environmentally friendly potential, (d) there are many benefits the environment, economy and consumers in using biofuels, and (e) they are biodegradable and contribute to sustainability.

Biomass can be converted into liquid and gaseous fuels through thermochemical and biological routes. Biofuel is a non-polluting, locally available, accessible, sustainable and reliable fuel obtained from renewable sources.

The authors are associated with the Agro-Biology Lab, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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