Biofuels – Better than Petrol or Diesel?

15 May 2015 | Bruce Compton

Biofuels are liquid transport fuels blended with petrol or diesel. They are made from plants that absorb energy from the sun and store it chemically as sugars or similar materials.

Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually added to diesel. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most common biofuel in Europe.

biofuelAdvanced Biofuels

Advanced biofuels offer several advantages compared with conventional biofuels. They are better for the environment and could be more sustainably available, reducing the cost of production.

Advanced biofuel conversion technology means that it is now possible to use agricultural waste and fast-growing, high-yielding energy grasses instead of the conventional crops. Some of these grasses can produce in excess of 3-4 times as many gallons of ethanol per acre comared to crops like corn.

Cellulosic ethanol was one of three advanced biofuels used in an experimental trial to power part of the Olympic fleet at the London 2012 games. (

The next-generation biofuel – biobutanol, has all the benefits of ethanol and offers additional advantages. It is more compatible with fuel supply systems gives more miles per gallon and reduces GHG emissions.

Regular ethanol production plants can also be converted to produce biobutanol, utilizing existing assets and enabling faster build times to achieve material production capacity.

Biobutanol has already been road-tested in vehicles covering more than 1.5 million miles – a distance equivalent to 3 journeys to the Moon and back.

Biofuels production continues to grow significantly worldwide. They currently make up around 3% of transport fuels. To be successful in this highly competitive market, plant operators must ensure their production is as efficient, safe and economical as possible. BP estimates that by 2030, the use of biofuels will increase to 7%.

Are biofuels actually worse than fossil fuels?

Some environmentalists believe that the use of biofuels made from crops contribute more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and cause deforestation and hunger, costing the taxpayer billions. The European council however have released legislation encouraging the use of biofuels and investing in their increase.

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