Clean, Dependable Renewable Fuels Needed for Future Development
Biofuels have the potential to reduce the energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with all forms of ground transportation, but guaranteeing the effectiveness of the product is a key component of the continued growth of this renewable resource. It’s here that the work of a biofuel analysis lab is important.
Biofuels, as defined by the US Energy Information Administration, are usually blended with petroleum-based motor gasoline or diesel and are consumed as liquid fuels in automobiles. Biofuels, whether they’re fuel ethanol, biodiesel, or other renewable fuels, accounted for approximately 20 percent of all U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020. The agency also noted that industrial consumption of biofuels accounted for about 36 percent of all U.S. biofuel energy consumption. Clearly, manufacturers and other product producers are investing in this renewable energy source for potential benefits such as lower costs and better environmental impacts.
Biofuel is still an emerging and growing sector. According to research from the Center of Sustainable Systems, in 2020, there were 201 ethanol refineries and 91 biodiesel production plants in the United States. Ethanol and biodiesel represent the two primary areas of focus for biofuel development, but new technologies are continuing to be developed.
- US ethanol production is primarily derived by processing and fermenting the starch in corn kernels into high-purity alcohol.
- Biodiesel can be made from animal fats, grease, and vegetable oils. In the US, soybean oil, corn oil, and recycled cooking oils are common feedstocks.
- Biodiesel made from algae is an area of ongoing research. Algae could potentially produce 10 to 100 times more fuel per acre than other crops.
With all the potential varieties and different bases that can be used, biofuel analysis labs are needed to make sure both the core materials and the finished products meet expected standards. Today we’ll look at how testing can validate biofuel production.
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Use a Biofuel Analysis Lab to Validate the Conversion Process
It is crucial that a producer of biofuel is attentive during the conversion process, or it could wind up with a low-quality product. This hurts not only short-term goals but could hamper long-term efforts to establish itself as a trusted provider of a renewable energy source. Testing and analysis help organizations identify issues that affect the quality of biofuels such as:
- Excess water left behind in the biodiesel fuel
- Fuel that didn’t have time to properly polymerize or oxidize due to long-term exposure
- Traces of the chemicals that are left behind from making biodiesel
- Products from the reaction that are not completely removed from the biodiesel
- Unconverted oil left in the biodiesel
Biofuel testing is a necessary step in the process to validate the accuracy of the blends as a requirement for clients, manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors. Testing will find the above instances or defects (if present) in the fuel blend or confirm their absence. If untested, consumers won’t know if the biofuel they are receiving is completely safe for use in their engines and machinery. A trusted biofuel analysis lab alleviates this concern.
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The Difference Between First and Second Generation Biofuels
Biofuels come in many forms with ethanol, biodiesel, biogas, and green diesel some of the more common examples. In general, biofuels are an energy source derived from renewable plant and animal materials like crops and waste matter and are generally used to power transportation vehicles.
First-generation biofuels are defined as biofuels blended with petroleum — diesel or gasoline — or as biofuels extrapolated from plant and animal biomass that are capable of being used on their own.
But before these first-generation biofuels are ready for use, the accuracy of the blends must be verified to ensure the safety and makeup of the blend must be clean from any of the defects or contaminants mentioned earlier.
For biodiesel, the acid level in the oil needs to be quantified. If the acid level is too high, the product needs to be cut with more of the base solution. Typically made by mixing animal fat or vegetable oil with alcohol, biodiesel can also be burned in its pure form or when blended for different engine use.
Ethanol can be burned in a nearly pure form, or when mixed with petrol. When mixed, ethanol enhances the combustion performance of petrol while also lowering emissions of carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.
In addition, biofuel needs to be tested in order to find out what machinery or engines it should be used in. The type of blend indicates the combustion power, emission level, and fuel efficiency you’ll see when using the fuel. For instance, blends of 20 percent biodiesel or lower can be used in diesel equipment with little to no modification. Other levels for different types of transportation vehicles have been set depending on the quality and blend.
Meanwhile, second-generation biofuels refer to fuel derived from plant matter — composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin — sourced from fast-growing trees and grasses, in addition to waste products from agriculture and forestry. Second-generation biofuels may serve as a better alternative for sustainability and reduction in greenhouse emissions, but the process of converting cellulose to ethanol is currently difficult and time-consuming.
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Get Complete Biofuel Analysis Lab Assistance from Barrow-Agee
Barrow-Agee Laboratories is equipped to provide timely, high-quality biofuel and renewable fuel analysis and testing to refiners, producers, blenders, distributors, consumers, and research facilities.
At Barrow-Agee, we perform thousands of analyses per year and can complete most tests within one business week. Our long track record, along with our long list of accreditations and certifications, ensures that when you work with us you’re getting an experienced and proven team to provide you lab assistance. We adhere to American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) testing methods and procedures.