Advanced biofuels are one of the choices available to decarbonize transportation in the short to medium term, particularly for heavy-duty, aviation, maritime, and marine vehicles. However, due to several issues that have emerged along their value chain, their production and market penetration is still quite low. The policy has so far set goals and monitoring mechanisms for low-carbon fuels and better engine performance, but it hasn’t gone far enough to support their widespread market adoption.
The non-food crop feedstocks, agricultural and forestry residues, and industrial wastes are the main sources of second-generation biofuels, also known as advanced biofuels. They are primarily generated via physical, thermochemical, and biochemical techniques, typically following a stage of processing of the biomass feedstock. Advanced biofuels are being studied due to their high energy densities and compatibility with the current fuel infrastructure. The last ten years have seen a surge in interest in the production of advanced biofuels from renewable resources, largely due to the depletion of fossil fuels and the rise of environmental concerns.
Advanced Biofuel Market
The global advanced biofuel market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of ~38.5%. In the automotive sector, they serve as substitutes for gasoline and diesel. The use of advanced biofuel in the automotive industry is motivated by low carbon emissions. The R&D department is investing much in the process of turning biomass into biofuels. The advanced biofuels industry presents a chance for new firms to enter because there are so few existing competitors in the sector. A significant number of investments are expected to be made in the market for the same.
As the technology matures, cost reduction is expected to come down. Gasification of oil and coal is a well-proven technology with multiple large units in operation. The application of gasification technologies to various biomass types and MSW is in the early commercialization phase and requires further development before reaching full commercial status. In the optimum cases, bio-methanol is close to competing on cost with fossil fuel-generated methanol, but it is more expensive, in many cases, by a factor of up to two.
Advanced biofuels must overcome difficulties in securing a year-round, reliable feedstock supply with quality that meets the conversion standards and maintains reasonable costs all year long. If the biomass feedstock (all or some) comes from certain crops, land use is the initial step in the planning process. Decisions must consider the difficulties of enhancing soil quality, sustaining, and increasing soil carbon, restoring degraded land, and preventing land use changes that might replace other current land-based activities. The industry must establish connections with the primary sectors producing biomass, such as farmers, the food and forest products businesses, and their stakeholders because the resource is rarely in the hands of the project developer. A key component of the normal business management of a biofuel producer is establishing and managing the supply chain for feedstock
Innovations are the engine of a bio-based economy, but for innovations to have an impact, they must leave the lab and enter the market. Technology is still being developed for advanced biofuel production methods like microbial conversion of lignocellulosic biomass (such as stalks and corn stover) to bioethanol or biobutanol and thermochemical pathways beginning with pyrolysis to produce bio-crude or gasification of biomass for syngas. Due to their capacity to utilize cheap, readily available, and low-quality feedstock like agricultural and forestry leftovers, these processes are held to the highest standards. But technological immaturity results in high capital costs, negating the advantage of cheap feedstock.
Lack of investment
Patent data indicates a recent freeze in innovation trends for biofuels, creating significant barriers to their development, commercialization, and widespread use. This is mostly caused by the absence of consistent regulations. This means that it will be difficult for companies based on biotechnology to commercialize their technologies. These issues might be resolved if the government changes the regulatory environment and increases its funding initiatives for the developing bio-based sector.
Lack of Infrastructure and logistics
For the availability and quality of feedstock to be maintained, timely logistics and efficient storage are essential. Agricultural waste is produced when crops are harvested for relatively brief periods (one to three times per year), whereas a biorefinery requires a consistent year-round feedstock supply. Low density, poor flowability, or deterioration can be caused by insufficient storage. It may be necessary to pre-process feedstock to regulate its size (chipping, grinding, pelletizing, or briquetting) and moisture content after collecting (for example, baling straw). The logistics system must reduce dry matter deterioration and loss.
To transport feedstock from fields to intermediate storage and pre-processing facilities, then to the refinery, transportation, and related handling systems must be set up.
Several technological innovations are taking place to support the development of advanced biofuels.
Algal biofuel, one of the feedstocks for advanced biofuels, can overcome its cost limitations if it is grown next to big industrial complexes, which are sources of CO2 and wastewater. It is possible to substitute conventional drying and solvents used to extract oil from algae with more affordable methods. Superior algal strains can be produced using cutting-edge genetic engineering techniques like CRISPR-Cas9 that have features like increased lipid content, quicker development, and thinner cell walls that make oil extraction easier.
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