Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wood biofuel could be a competitive industry by 2020

Date:
November 22, 2011
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Fuel made from wood could become a competitive commercial alternative to fuel made from corn by 2020 if the wood biofuel industry is supported, according to a new study.

Fuel made from wood could become a competitive commercial alternative to fuel made from corn by 2020 if the wood biofuel industry is supported, according to a new University of British Columbia study.

Corn ethanol is currently blended with gasoline to satisfy government-mandated targets to include renewable content in transportation fuel. Compared to corn, wood-based biofuel is considered more sustainable but is not currently produced in large commercial quantities in Canada and the United States because the costs are too great.

The study, published in the most recent issue of the journal Biofuels Bioproducts & Biorefining, identifies several opportunities for reducing these costs. Researchers in UBC's Faculty of Forestry found that large-scale commercial production of wood-based ethanol, also known as cellulosic ethanol, will reduce capital and operation costs and assist in achieving the improvements necessary for wood-based ethanol to compete, without government support.

"As industrial production increases, cellulosic ethanol is likely to become more competitive with corn ethanol for a share of the renewable fuels market," says Jamie Stephen, a PhD candidate at UBC and lead author of the study.

Stephen's research indicates that the economic competitiveness of wood-based ethanol fuel production could be improved by reducing the capital costs of facilities and equipment, reducing enzyme costs and generating revenue from co-products like electricity. Today, the enzymes needed to breakdown wood products are one of the major costs associated with production. As industrial volumes of biofuel are produced and demand grows, technological learning and economies-of-scale will help reduce the cost.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act in the United States requires that 117 billion litres (31 billion gallons) of ethanol be added to gasoline annually by 2022. In Canada, the federal government mandates that gasoline must include five per cent renewable fuel content.

Wood-based biofuel creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less water to produce. Cellulose, the main component of wood, is also the most abundant polymer on Earth and unlike the starch and sugars found in corn and sugarcane, people cannot digest it. Production of wood-based ethanol fuel doesn't use food supplies for fuel and competition for agricultural land can be reduced.

"If you do a purely economic production cost comparison between wood and corn today, corn will be the lower cost option," says Stephen. "If we consider other factors, like energy security, the environmental impact and availability of resources, cellulosic ethanol becomes a more competitive option for Canada and the United States."

In Canada, wood waste, corn stover and wheat straw are being considered for wood-based ethanol production.

Stephen notes that 35 years ago Brazil made the decision to invest heavily in sugarcane-ethanol production. Today, Brazil's flex-fuel vehicles run on fuels of up to 100 per cent ethanol and government subsidies for the industry have nearly disappeared.

"Commercial production of wood-based ethanol requires government support to be economically viable," says Stephen. "There has been a lot of investment in the research and development of cellulosic ethanol, especially in the United States and Canada. Huge advancements have been made to reduce the cost of production but there is still a long way to go before the volumes produced by the corn ethanol industry are attainable."

This study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the British Columbia Innovation Council (BCIC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. James D. Stephen, Warren E. Mabee, Jack N. Saddler. Will second-generation ethanol be able to compete with first-generation ethanol? Opportunities for cost reduction. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/bbb.331

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Wood biofuel could be a competitive industry by 2020." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111108133045.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2011, November 22). Wood biofuel could be a competitive industry by 2020. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111108133045.htm
University of British Columbia. "Wood biofuel could be a competitive industry by 2020." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111108133045.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins