Sustainability / Second generation biofuel
Second generation biofuel
Today the world is moving thanks to oil. Fossil fuel emissions are the main cause of global warming. The world is striving to reduce these emissions. Solar and wind energy can contribute to solve the problem, but not alone. Hence, new biofuels are a key element, as they can make an even greater contribution.

That is why, by 2020, within the European Union, 10 percent of energy consumption for transport will have to be derived from renewable resources.

Ethanol – i.e. alcohol – is already present in small quantities in gasoline, less than 10% vol. This ethanol is mainly produced using sugar cane, corn or wheat: all vegetable raw materials that lend themselves easily to the process of fermentation. Indeed, with the first generation technologies, sugars are easily converted into bioethanol.

But the use of these technologies takes land away from food crops and increases the price of raw materials provides limited GHG saving compared to fossil fuels, as the CO2 "absorbed" by plants is returned to the atmosphere through the use of fertilizers, means of transport, agricultural machinery and the like, all derived from oil.

On the basis of the above considerations, the European Union resolved that starting from 2017 fuels with CO2 sequestration capacity of less than 50% will no longer contribute to meet the 10% e/e target set by the Renewable Energy Directive and the threshold will rise to 60% in 2018 for biofuels and bioliquids produced in installations in which production started on or after 1 January 2017.

In April 2015, the European Parliament adopted a text that sets a new target regime to limit the amount of crop-generated biofuels (1G biofuels) used in the transport sector.

The text sets a cap for first generation (1G) biofuels of no more than 7% of transport’s energy consumption by 2020. In addition, EU Member States will have to set a national target for advanced biofuels (from non-food biomasses) with a reference target of 0,5% e/e.

Specifically in Italy a Government Decree on 10.10.14 established mandatory blending quotas at a minimum of 0,6% advanced biofuels starting in 2018, up to 1% after 2022.

Cellulose, seaweed, straw and sugar cane based biofuels achieve an efficiency beyond this threshold, while corn, wheat, soy and palm based biofuels typically exhibit emission saving values below this threshold.

It was therefore necessary to find ways to produce ethanol from alternative sources, both sustainable and largely available, like cellulose, present in large quantities in all plant species and in agricultural waste. Research groups around the world have been engaged for years to develop and fine-tune a second-generation industrial process.

Biochemtex and Beta Renewables were the first ones to solve this problem at industrial level. Among the various concrete initiatives supporting the use of biofuels, Beta Renewables and Biochemtex promoted the launching, in Europe, of the initiative “Leaders for Sustainable Biofuels” (link) the purpose of which is to promote the adoption of second-generation biofuels in Europe. Besides Beta Renewables and Biochemtex, a number of companies operating in the field of transport and chemistry have joined the initiative: British Airways, BTG, Chemrec, Clariant, Dong Energy and UPM, all represented by the highest corporate officers.

Biochemtex is also a member of the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE).

Click here to find out how PROESA™ works.

Oil uses by sector

  • Transport 77.2%
  • Chemical industry 4%
  • Other 18.8%

Biofuels from plants used in first-generation processes: less absorption of CO2

  • Biofuels from cereals, wheat and sugar cane: 16-71%
  • Biofuels from oilseeds (rapeseed, peanut, sunflower, palm oil, etc.): 19-51%

Biofuels from plants used in second-generation processes: greater absorption of CO2

  • From energy Crops (miscanthus, Arundo donax, poplar, etc.): 80-90%
  • From agricultural waste: up to 85%
  • From farmed or wasted woody biomass: 70-95%