Biofuels Update – Nov 2010

2010-11-01 15:05
LP Gas

This report concerning a variety of fuels is drawn from the comments made by various companies and organisations that were reported in the VDA publication “Future Drive Systems and Fuels’ on the occasion of the 63rd International Truck Show in Hannover and comments made by a number of product managers when interviewed at the show. Sources include VDA, Volkswagen AG, German Department of Transport, European Working Group on Renewable Energy, Shell, and the Federation of German Industry.

Clean diesel will be further improved in respect of injection technology and treatment of emissions. AdBleu , a diluted urea solution is seen as an additional fuel that results in the lowest Nox emissions. Various technical developments, advanced turbo-charging and better thermo management are key concepts that are expected to provide the potential for significant reductions in fuel consumption of up to 30%. This is set to make the modern diesel even cleaner and retaining its efficiency advantages. The word is that diesel is here to stay well into the future.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is not yet easily available in South Africa. Much of the exploration taking place around South Africa’s West, Southern and East coastlines are searches for gas. The development of gas as a viable alternative fuel is doing well in Germany with more than 70 000 gas powered vehicles on its roads. Significantly lower emissions (carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, Nox and particulates) and a thumbs up from the ADAC (German Automobile Association) confirm that natural gas is safe as a transport fuel. Most vehicle manufacturers are expanding their respective gas powered model ranges. More than 770 filling stations have already been commissioned in Germany.

LPG is no stranger to South African operators and is widely used for forklifts and in mines. CO2 emissions are low as is the tax regime in most countries where it is used.

Biofuels in the EU and Germany are seen as an important factor in meeting the CO2 emissions target of 120 grams/km as cost effectively as possible. The German government has implemented a biofuels quota in its regulations for the future. However, biofuels must meet appropriate biofuels standards when used as a blend. At present biofuels can be blended up to 7%. Some vehicle manufacturers agree to a 10% blend, always subject to complying with acceptable standards. If biofuels prove to be sustainable, a maximum of 17% as a percentage of fuel consumed is seen as a long term possibility. Vehicle manufacturers require biofuels to be compatible with ongoing vehicle technology, meet sustainability criteria and comply with international labour standards.

Bio Natural Gas
Bio natural gas when compatible with natural gas standards (DIN51624) can be blended with the natural gas network. A CO2 reduction of up to 80% makes bio natural gas an excellent ecological fuel.

Maize... back on the table as potential feedstock for ethanol.Second Generation Biofuels
Availability of liquid biofuels is still mainly derived from first generation feedstocks. These are biodiesel and ethanol. These fuels have had limited potential to achieve larger blend doses resulting from technical problems. Second generation biofuels reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90% whereas first generation biofuels could not do better than a 50% reduction of CO2 emissions. Second generation biofuels can be produced from biological residues such as waste wood and straw. However, only such fuels can be deemed not to be in competition with food production.

It should be noted the South African Department of Agriculture has relented and placed maize back on the table as a potential feedstock for ethanol. While this discussion will be welcomed by maize farmers and the maize forum, it is out of step with world trends. Maize is not the best choice for producing ethanol even if it is in surplus from time to time.

It requires more energy and no doubt a notable carbon footprint to produce it. Better the DoA goes back to the drawing board before being cajoled into allowing this to be an acceptable biofuel feedstock. Being a first generation feedstock, is it worth it to use maize? Given the experience in Europe, this is a question that should be asked.


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