Biofuel: the first generation is calling for a second. by David Lefebvre.
As soon as the ethanoleries begin their production, bioethanol is seriously challenged. And yet, this first generation of biofuels calls for a second that will represent an environmental record much more favorable.
Bioethanol is currently experiencing many challenges. As announced in the East agricultural and viticultural in January 2007, it is first of all its environmental record that is discussed again. And in particular energy efficiency. The first-generation bioethanol represents 43% of the total dry matter produced in the field, because it is effectively developed only from starch. The energy efficiency evaluated to date takes into account only 43% of the fossil energy costs required for total production. Which is far from being right according to the opponents. A study should soon clarify the issue.
The other questioning is more critical for the new sector. It relates to the tax exemption granted by the public authorities. Gasoline is taxed at 59 cents per liter. Bioethanol benefits from 33 cents less taxes. So the price of bioethanol E-85 is around 80 cents per liter at the pump. But as so-called flexfuel cars consume 30% more, it's a white operation for the consumer.
According to the General Confederation of Beet Growers, the rectifying finance law in preparation for 2007 would provide for a reduction of 40% of this tax benefit given to bioethanol. In the end, it would no longer be competitive, a bad announcement at a time when grain farmers and beet growers say they have invested nearly a billion euros in ethanoleries.
The HCCI engine
The solution could come from engine manufacturers with HCCI (Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition) technology. These are new gasoline engines, but operating on the principle of the compression diesel engine - a phenomenon of self-ignition.
Thus, the reproaches that were addressed to the engines to not give prospects for improvement of sobriety are no longer justified. Bioethanol could now offer the same efficiency improvements as diesel, diester or vegetable oil, which is known to work perfectly well with Tier 3 common rail direct injection engines. Already, General Motors with the Saturn Aura and Opel Vectra has developed the first prototypes with the HCCI engine, 2.2 Ecotec 4 cylinders. Compared to a conventional gasoline engine, fuel consumption or E85 is reduced by 15%. But above all, the prospects for improving the efficiency of these engines are as interesting as diesel.
Finally, bioethanol would be accused of causing the destabilization of the world price of cereals by unbalancing supply and demand. A fairly discussed argument. The increase would actually be related to the global production shortfall in 2007, particularly in Australia, the rise in oil prices and therefore production costs and an increase in demand from emerging countries such as China.
Finally, the industry has many hopes for second-generation fuels to improve its image.
Their development consists not only of the grains, but also of the plant part such as straw, celluloses, corn straw or beet pulp. It is indeed possible to make a chemical conversion of this biomass into fuel by the BTL process - Cracking of vegetable chains at high temperature and formation of synthetic diesel. There is also a biological conversion method, which consumes less energy because it operates at biological temperatures. Microorganisms transform cellulose into fuel. In the end, much more energy is extracted with the same fossil fuel costs than those required for the production of first-generation fuels. Hence greatly improved energy efficiencies.
In addition, these plants for converting celluloses into fuel would be versatile by being able to convert celluloses or lignins from other sectors: wood, paper, green waste, etc. The optimized use of the factories improves the carbon footprint of the sector. Currently, a pilot exists in Sweden dedicated to converting wood into fuel. Two other pilots could emerge in France. To have a second generation of fuel, we had to help the first. Cereal and beet growers hope the public authorities will support biofuels because the technical prospects are real.
- Second generation biofuels in .pdf
- Biofuels of the future of 2th and 3th generation
- Second generation fuels, liquefaction of BTL biomass by the CEA
- Ethanol assessment, the Price WaterHouse Coopers study called into question
- Forum E85 and biofuel