Thursday, June 05, 2008

Biofuels in the European Context: Facts and Uncertainties

The report "Biofuels in the European Context: Facts and Uncertainties" has been published on the Biofuels TP Secretariat web site ( ).

The European Biofuels Technology Platform (Biofuels TP) is EU funded and is to contribute to the development of sustainable, cost-competitive, world-class biofuels technologies, to the creation of a healthy biofuels industry and to accelerate the deployment of sustainable biofuels in the European Union through a process of guidance, prioritisation and promotion of research, development and demonstration.

The platform is now up and running and this is just one of 8 reports now available for downloading from their web site. This provides an interesting new resource for those of us that believe that there is a big future for biofuels from Anaerobic Digestion and wish to learn more. Most new Anaerobic Digestion plants built and planned fior the UK so far have concentrated on electricity production, and I feel that the biofuel capability of AD has hardly yet been properly explored.

After all, wind power, hydro, solar and wave power etc,. will never be able to produce transport fuels directly, and fuel production from methane avoids the power generation and transmission inefficiences inherent in electricity production.

Biofuel from food crops is becoming increasingly unpopular as it is seen as contributory to world food shortages and recent price rises.

This first report introduces its content as follows:-

"The report presents facts, findings and models regarding biofuels in a broad context. It points out the associated uncertainties. The document identifies scenarios which may evolve in either a predictable or non predictable way in the future but which in turn may considerably influence the debate. Finally, this report has identified open issues."

The report devotes only one small section to anaerobic digestion though.

"Making biogas itself saves GHG emissions because it avoids methane release from stored manure, but it is more economic to use biogas locally, to generate electricity and heat. This saves the cost of purification, distribution, compression, storage, and vehicle modifications."

I am not sure at all that "stored manure" produces biogas, perhaps an agricultural expert would email in and tell me...

However, this runs contrary to what a number of people have said to me recently.

I have been told that the additional cost of biofuel conversion equipment is beneficial for biogas plants because during the summer for example when it would be swutched on, there is no heating demand and CHP systems stand idle while biofuel conversion can be taking place on methane gas at a much higher overall efficiency, because the energy efficiency of running biogas power generation without a CHP load are acknowledged to be low.

As ever, your emailed comments are welcome, and we will publish good ones. However, for some obscure technical reason the comments sign-up page does not seem to be functioning on the blog though.

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