Even if biotechnology brings effective solutions mainly for second generation biofuels, derived from non-food biomass, the expansion of biofuels production and consumption will definitely depend on governmental policies and fiscal incentives
Paris, France (PRWEB) December 1, 2008
Biofuels are fuels produced from renewable resources (organic material), especially plant biomass, vegetable oils, and treated municipal and industrial waste. Today the most important and commonly used biofuels are biodiesel derived from vegetable oil and ethanol derived from sugar and starch crops. These fuels are used to complement the world's supply of petroleum and other fossil fuels. Of all the alternative fuels, or biofuels, that are available or developed, the most significant market is for bioethanol. Global fuel ethanol production grew 25% in 2007 to more than 50 billion litres. The USA (production mostly from corn) and Brazil (production mostly from sugarcane) account for 91% of global bioethanol production, up from 89% in 2006. More recently, Asia (especially China, India and Thailand) has also embarked on large scale fuel-ethanol production and represents one of the largest production potential in the coming years. In 2007, the production of bioethanol in China amounted to 1.8 billion litres, thereby placing the country at rank 3 worldwide, ahead of the EU.
First generation bioethanol was made from food crops, but it is not believed that diverting food crops to create fuels will be sustainable over the long-term. And again, biotechnology, the 21th century technologic breakthrough, is one of the most effective and innovative technologies to develop second generation biofuels. Research is under way to commercialise 'second-generation' production techniques that can make biofuels from woody material, grasses, agricultural and some additional types of non food plant waste.
Biomass is a complex material composed of cellulose (30-50%), hemicellulose (20-40%), and lignin (15-30%). The exact composition varies from plant to plant. Since it is found in nearly all plant life, cellulose is the most abundant biological molecule on earth. Like the starch found in corn kernels, cellulose is a polymer of the sugar glucose. It forms part of the cell wall and is designed to contribute to the structural integrity of the plant. Hemicellulose is a more random and amorphous structure of connected sugars.
There are several technical and economic challenges associated with the large-scale production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass, which includes: collection and transport of the biomass raw material, preprocessing or "pretreatment", enzymatic conversion of pretreated plant material to sugars, and the fermentation of a mixed sugar stream. Many advances have been made in each of these areas over the past several years, greatly improving the likelihood that cellulosic ethanol will become a commercial reality in the very near future.
In 2007, sales of enzymes to the bioethanol industry comprised 13% of Novozymes'total enzymes sales. Enzymes for bioethanol is the fastest-growing segment in the enzyme market (an average increase in sales of 20-25% annually is expected over the next 3-4 years).
Biodiesel is emerging as a global industry. The EU currently represents 90% of global biodiesel production and consumption. However, the USA is now accelerating its biodiesel production capabilities. Biodiesel is a natural fit in Europe, Asia and Brazil where diesel-fuelled vehicles are more common than in the US. More than half of the biodiesel (nearly 3.3 billion litres) in the EU is produced in Germany. Germany is followed by France, Italy, and Austria with respectively 982, 410 and 301 million litres.
Biodiesel is currently produced from plant and animal oils. This could change in the near future with very promising ongoing development to produce biodiesel from microalgae. By containing 60 to 80% oil by weight of dry biomass and doubling their biomass within 24 hours, microalgae could revolutionise biofuel production.
According to CBDM.T®, the market and business intelligence company, the biofuel market is estimated at €33 billion with a double digit annual growth. The market consists of approximately 85% bioethanol and 15% biodiesel. Bioethanol is produced and consumed mainly in Brazil and North America. On the other hand, Europe is the world leader in biodiesel production and this fuel represents about three fourths of the European biofuels market. Only 1% of the world's energy supply is derived from ethanol or biodiesel. Market drivers for biofuels are oil supply and demand (prices, volatility), environmental concerns (emission of greenhouse gases and sustainability), national interests (security of supply, strategic independence, rural development opportunity) and biotechnological progress (better process, enzymes and microorganisms). But there are also inhibitors of the biofuels market such as infrastructures, process optimization and scalability, education, investment and implementation, and subsidies and tax incentives.
"Even if biotechnology brings effective solutions mainly for second generation biofuels, derived from non-food biomass, the expansion of biofuels production and consumption will definitely depend on governmental policies and fiscal incentives," comments Philippe Tramoy, managing partner.
Some key players: Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Verasun, Aventine, Abengoa Bioenergy, Bluefire, Iogen, Losonoco, Mascoma, Xethanol, Dong, DuPont/Poet, Tate & Lyle, Verenium, Novozymes, DSM, Codexis, Maxygen, Genencor, Dyadic, BP, Total, Chevron, Shell…
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