Biofuels, bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas – the list of new fuel types seems to be growing by the week. Are they the future for energy and fuels?
British Airways has announced a landmark deal to build the first plant in Europe producing jet fuel from waste material.
The plant, planned for East London, will use half million tonnes of waste each year producing around 16 million gallons of fuel. Starting production in 2014, BA says it will generate double the fuel needed for all flights from London City Airport.
BA argues the plant will cut the amount of waste that is sent to landfill, reducing the amount of methane that is produced. Methane is suggested to be a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Waste matter is fed into a high temperature ‘gasifier’ to produce BioSynGas. A chemical process called Fischer Tropsch is then used to convert the gas into biofuel.
Waste products from the process can power the plant and supply 20MW of electricity to the national grid. A solid waste product can be used as an aggregate in construction.
The fuel produced by the plant is certified for use in other countries, but not currently in the UK.
Biofuels are a sort of fuel made from living matter, or from the waste they produce. This is a long and diverse list, but includes:
• wood and straw
• biogas (methane) from animals’ excrement
• ethanol, diesel or other liquid fuels made from processing plant material or waste oil
In recent years, the term ‘biofuel’ has come to mean the last category - ethanol and diesel, made from crops including corn, sugarcane and rapeseed.
Bio-ethanol, an alcohol, is usually mixed with petrol, while biodiesel is either used on its own or in a mixture.