RESEARCH
March 9, 2009

Biomass measures up to petroleum

We know that biofuels, to a greater or lesser degree, are environmentally better than petroleum-based fuels. It turns out that many are also comparable to petroleum fuels in cost and production efficiency.

An analysis of the efficiency, environmental impact and economics of various processes for converting biomass to fuel, energy and/or animal feed came up with three key findings. Most biofuel processes cost the same or less than petroleum-based fuels. All have lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fuels. And the best processes are just as efficient.

Processes that combine biologically produced ethanol and thermochemically produced fuels and/or power are 61 to 80 percent efficient and cost $0.96 to $1.24 for the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

The analysis found that mature processes for converting cellulosic biomass to biofuel are as efficient as petroleum fuels and cost the same to produce as gasoline when oil prices are about $30 a barrel.

Research paper:
Comparative Analysis of Efficiency, Environmental Impact, and Process Economics for Mature Biomass Refining Scenarios
Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining, published online March 4, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Mark Laser
Eric Larson
Bruce Dale
Michael Wang
Nathanael Greene
Lee Lynd

Related stories and briefs:
Net energy under fire -- related research

Further info:
The Role of Biomass in America's Energy Future (RBAEF) -- project page

Back to ERN March 9, 2009

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