Kate Mackenzie Biofuels fight back

There are a few snippets of good news around this week for the much-maligned first generation biofuels.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology has published four papers shedding a more positive light on corn ethanol, perhaps the most reviled of biofuels, after some studies showed its production involved similar levels of greenhouse gas emissions to gasoline.

One of the new studies, from the University of Nebraska, looked at the life cycle of corn ethanol production found that efficiently-produced corn ethanol could involve emissions 48 to 59 per cent lower than that of gasoline.

The reason, they say, is improvements to crop production, bio-refinery operation and co-product utilisation (or using the by-products of corn ethanol for other purposes, such as animal feed). In fact, they say:

An advanced closed-loop biorefinery with anaerobic digestion reduced GHG emissions by 67%  and increased the net energy ratio to 2.2, from 1.5 to 1.8 for the most common systems. Such improved technologies have the potential to move corn-ethanol closer to the hypothetical performance of cellulosic biofuels.

Meanwhile D1 Oils, the jatropha company that that BP once took an interest in, had a minor reprieve in its share price after posting a small loss in its first half results on Tuesday. And Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, is reportedly planning to make a big ethanol purchase to mix with its gasoline sold in the country’s second largest city, Guadalajara. Although that might say more about Mexico’s oil production than about biofuels, per se…

Related links:

ExxonMobil might do well marching to own drummer (FT Energy Source, 17/07/09)
Second-generation biofuels: Still five years away? (FT Energy Source, 29/05/09)