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Plantation for the production of biofuels

Uses of Biofuels: What Are the Main Benefits of Using Biofuels?

Biomass and biofuels are a type of renewable energy that can be used to generate electricity and heat. There are different uses of biofuels. The production of these alternative fuels allows the creation of other products.

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Uses of biofuels: What are the main benefits of using biofuels?

Biomass is composed of solid biofuels, including a wide variety of firewood, charcoal, pellets, chips, sawdust, and bagasse (for example, cane or agave). In addition, agricultural residues are often another source of biomass, such as peel, coconut, coffee, or rice, among others.

Biofuel production is considered a renewable energy source. The aim of using biofuels was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, this type of fuel cannot be regarded as clean energy because, although it reduces carbon emissions, it is still generating CO2 emissions.

What Are the Uses of Biofuels?

These are the essential uses of biofuels:

  • Diesel engines and vehicles: biofuels can be used as transportation fuels. Today, all diesel vehicles can run successfully on diesel fuel, biodiesel, or other biofuels. However, in cars made before 1993, changing some parts in the fuel lines may be required to prevent biodiesel from affecting engine performance.

  • Heat source: biofuels allow to provide thermal energy. The most common application is heating systems, either by burning firewood in domestic fireplaces or boosting the operation of kitchens.

  • Electrical energy generation: this energy transformation process is crucial in locations most prone to the effects of toxic emissions. For example: schools, hospitals, and residential areas.

  • Charging of electronic equipment: Researchers have successfully tested the use of vegetable oil and sugar in batteries to power electronic devices. Although this technology is in its early stages of testing, in the future, users can use these batteries to charge cell phones and laptops.

  • Water cleaning: biodiesel can help the sanitation of the seas, especially in oil spills and grease contamination. Biofuel can also be used as an industrial solvent, specifically to clean metals, bringing benefits due to its low polluting impact.

  • Lubricant: Biodiesel has the potential to reduce the percentage of sulfur in diesel vehicle systems. Sulfur is directly involved in the fuel's lubricity, so this biofuel also serves as an ecological lubricant.

  • Domestic kitchens: biodiesel can run just as efficiently without the adverse effects of pollution.

  • Replacement of fossil fuels: When oil, coal, and natural gas run out for good, the generation of biofuels will become a demanded renewable fuel standard.

  • Remove adhesives and paints for household use: Biodiesel can be an effective adhesive and paint remover. Therefore, eliminating non-critical services from this fuel could become a trend in the coming years.

  • Reduce the need to import oil: Representing an excellent alternative energy source, biofuels such as biodiesel can significantly reduce imports of crude oil.

What Are the Benefits of the Different Types of Biofuels?

Next, we analyze the main liquid biofuels.

What Are the Uses of Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is based on diesel fuels produced from biomass-based elements such as yellow grease, used cooking oils, vegetable oils, or animal fats.

In pure or mixed in various proportions, Biodiesel production can be used in modern diesel engines.

Biodiesel blends up to 5% do not cause problems and are usually marketed in many European countries. For many car manufacturers, the vehicle warranty meets a blend of up to 30% biodiesel and 70% diesel.

The internal energy of biodiesel is mainly used in the following applications:

  • Biodiesel for cars (diesel engines) either pure (in recent diesel engines) or mixed with diesel.

  • Biodiesel for heat and energy production. It can be used pure or mixed with diesel in any proportion for heating.

Vegetable Oil as Biofuel

Feeding a diesel vehicle directly with a seed oil causes faults in the injection system and the engine. It is due to the carbon deposits in the injectors and the dissolution of the rubber parts.

For example, rapeseed oil in the engine can cause crushing and breakage, especially in injectors and high-pressure pumps. Depending on the diesel engine used, it is technically possible to mix 5 to 30% diesel oil in the winter season and 30 to 70% in the summer.

The problem is that biodiesel and even more unesterified oil must enter the engine at higher temperatures than fossil fuel. In addition, it must reduce the engine's efficiency, having a calorific value per liter slightly lower than that of fossil oil.

Obviously, this applies to diesel engines currently in use in motor vehicles, optimized to the maximum for fossil fuel.

What Is Bioethanol, and What Are Its Uses?

Bioethanol is a biofuel that can be added to gasoline, with a percentage that can reach 20%. If technical changes are made to the engine, it is possible to achieve even 100%. The use in higher rates occurs in the synthesis of ETBE, an organic derivative. This derivative is used in a mixture with gasoline to replace tetraethyl lead or aromatic hydrocarbons.

In Brazil, a well-known automotive group (General Motors) sells vehicles that can be used either bioethanol, gasoline or methane. This experiment seems to have demonstrated the possibility of producing bioethanol at competitive costs compared to the market price of gas.

Uses and Benefits of Bio Methanol

Methanol has multiple industrial applications. The main one is a solvent for fats, oils, resins, cellulose nitrate, dyes and antifreeze solutions. Methanol for transportation seems to be a comparable fuel for the yields and vehicles used to traditional types of gasoline. It can also be used in the production of biodiesel.

Methanol, derived from fossil fuels, is synthetic gasoline, characterized by a higher octane number than gasoline. Therefore, methanol could be used as pure fuel for motor vehicles in theory.

It is needed to guarantee the engine's cold start and the use of materials resistant to corrosion caused by alcohol to do it. However, in Europe there are still no large-scale applications of engines that run on pure biomethanol. The main handicap that limit the use of methanol as a biofuel is the storage and transportation, which is particularly expensive.

Innovative Aspects of Biofuels

Other lines of recent research related to biofuels have attracted the attention of the academic and industrial world: the production of biodiesel from microalgae crops.

From cellulosic materials, the production of hydrogen by biological means. Microalgae are unicellular organisms that can live in fresh, brackish, or salty waters. They include a wide variety of species adapted to very different conditions. Besides, they can multiply rapidly and reach higher biomass densities than terrestrial plants.

In addition, they do not interfere with agricultural production dedicated to food. On the contrary, they offer the possibility of producing:

  • Biodiesel, from microalgae rich in oil.

  • Bioethanol, from microalgae rich in carbohydrates.

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Published: July 15, 2019
Last review: March 8, 2022