Global Trends of Biofuel Production and Its Utilization


The high consumption of fossil fuels across the world is imposing various environmental issues. There is a need to shift the dependency on gasoline to renewable sources of energy. Biofuels are liquids, solids, and gaseous fuels that are derived from organic matter and have the potential to reduce CO, emission in the transportation sector w'ith an objective of energy security. Biofuels are the leading solutions for transport fuel, which is chiefly in road transport, while marine and aviation have equal scope. The railway is another sector where biofuels are taking an important stake. Utilization of biofuels in restaurants and farm operations are now common in some countries. Biofuel production and utilization not only answer the problem of the energy crisis but also give solutions to environmental issues, such as global w'arming, waste utilization, and recycling. Production and utilization of biofuels in the remote areas are leading to energy self-sufficiency and employment opportunities. The aspects related to biofuels can be categorized into social (employment, food security, land holding), environmental (greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, water quality), and economic (energy security, finance, and fuel trade). Predominantly bioethanol and biodiesel are the main types of biofuels that are the substitutes to patrol and diesel, respectively. Bioethanol can be produced from sugar- based crops, cellulosic biomass, and hence categorized into generation according to the type of biomass used for the production through fermentation. Lignocellulosic- based biomass from agriculture and forest sources need pretreatment before fermentation, which is energy- and time-intensive. Biodiesel is produced by vegetable oils and animal fats by transesterification process. The transesterification process varies slightly in accordance with the substrate and process conditions, such as temperature, pressure, and time. Nowadays, a fully recycled closed system of transesterification is developed where chemicals and water utilized during the process can be recycled. Another category of biofuels is advanced biofuels, which excludes bioethanol and biodiesel. This is cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel, and vegetable oil after hydrotreatment.


Globally, the production of biofuels has reached up to 126 billion liters in 2014 (Figure 6.1) and the highest producers were the USA and Brazil. As per estimation, America produced 95.1 billion liters of liquid biofuels (Figure 6.2). Since 2000, the global biofuel annual growth rate was about 15%, whereas the average biomass supply growth rate is much lower (2.3%). America produced 95.1 billion liters of biofuels from corn chiefly. Twenty-eight European Union countries, Argentina, China, and Indonesia are the top producer of biofuels.

Biofuel production is dependent on the land availability for the raw material from crops, such as maize, wheat, sugar beet, sugarcane, and vegetable oils. About 2.9% of the world land area is engaged in the chief biofuel crop cultivation, which produced

4.2 billion tons of biofuel crop out of which approximately 122 million tons were used for biofuel production. Distillers dried grain with soluble (DDGS) obtained during biofuel production is an important component that can be utilized for animal feed and oil cake. In the year 2014,75.3 million tons of DDGS were produced, which supported the economics of biofuels. Table 6.1 shows the bioethanol and biodiesel production from different crops with DDGS generation (WBAS 2017).

The bioethanol production system can be categorized on the basis of raw material, namely simple sugars, starch, and lignocellulosic material. Bioethanol from simple sugars, especially from sugarcane and sorghum juices, are the

Global liquid biofuel production trend. (All values in billion liters. Source

FIGURE 6.1 Global liquid biofuel production trend. (All values in billion liters. Source: IEA Key World Energy Statistics and REN21 GSR 2017.)

Liquid biofuel production in continents in 2014. (All values in billion liters. Source

FIGURE 6.2 Liquid biofuel production in continents in 2014. (All values in billion liters. Source: IEA Key World Energy Statistics and REN21 GSR 2017.)


Bioethanol and Biodiesel Production from Different Feedstocks





% of Biofuels













Other grains





Sugar beet











Palm oil





Vegetable oils









easiest route of production through fermentation. Starch from grains needs an enzymatic step known as saccharification before fermentation. Conversion of lignocellulosic is the toughest and most energy-intensive. All these processes have clear potential in greenhouse gas reduction. Recently, a lot of research has been done for raw material processing, efficient enzyme development, and genetically modified organisms. Utilization of microalgae and continuous systems with engineered immobilized cells are the recent developments in the technology.

Ethanol production may increase with the growth rate of 14% from 120 billion liters in 2017 to 131 billion liters in 2027. The projected production is shown in Figure 6.3. To fulfill the domestic needs, 50% increased quantity is expected

Bioethanol production by 2027 (billion liters)

FIGURE 6.3 Bioethanol production by 2027 (billion liters).

Global ethanol production in different countries from 2007 to 2017. (Source

FIGURE 6.4 Global ethanol production in different countries from 2007 to 2017. (Source:

to come from Brazil. Other contributors are China, India, Thailand, and the Philippines with 10%, 9%, 12%, and 5% in global increase. The United States is expected to be the largest producer followed by Brazil, China, and the European Union (Figure 6.4). Production of ethanol is toward stagnation or decrease in developed countries with the increase in developing countries. United States ethanol production may decrease after a few years with lower international and domestic gasoline demand in the country. Brazil has a favorable differential taxation system and gasohol blending policies that may lead to increased bioethanol production. China mainly produces from maize and cassava for the domestic use, whereas the European Union is dependent on sugar beet and coarse grain. Thailand and India’s ethanol production is based on cassava, sugarcane, and molasses. In the future, sugarcane and coarse grains will remain chief ethanol feedstock. By 2027, ethanol production will use 18% and 15% of world’s sugarcane and maize, respectively. Approximately 0.3% of global ethanol production will come from biomass (OECD- FAO 2018).

The biodiesel production system is categorized into three sections: upstream, mainstream, and downstream. Feedstocks type and quality are governed in the upstream strategy, whereas the mainstream addresses the chemical, mechanical, and process parameters. The innovative technology of separation of biodiesel and glycerin and its purification comes under downstream processes. Jatropha curcas, calophyllum inophyllum, Nicotiana tabacum, Ceiba Pentandra, Hevea brasiliensis; microalgae, cyanobacteria, unicellular microorganisms such as bacteria, filamentous fungi, and yeasts; waste frying oil, soap stocks, and spent bleaching earth oil are the feedstocks for the biodiesel production. Modern mainstream strategies for biodiesel refinery are the use of cosolvents under chemical strategies and improved conventional impeller agitation systems and non-impeller novel agitation systems under mechanical strategies (Tabatabaei et al. 2015). Modern trends for downstream processes in biodiesel production are

1. Biodiesel-glycerin separation (decantation)

NaCl-assisted gravitational settling Electrocoagulation

Stand-alone membrane modules

  • 2. Biodiesel purification Membrane separation technology Extraction by ionic liquids
  • 3. Glycerin purification

Glycerin prepurification procedures followed by the distillation method

  • 4. Biodiesel wastewater treatment Commercial electrospun polystyrene membrane Commercial chitosan flakes treatment through absorption
  • 5. Alcohol recovery
  • 6. Biodiesel additives

Biodiesel production is more affected by the policies rather than the market. The European Union is the major contributor to the production. The global production may reach 39.3 billion liters by 2027 with a 9% increase from the year 2017. Vegetable oil is the major feedstock that will remain the same in the future. Moreover, waste oil and tallow will be the important raw material for biodiesel in the United States and European Union. The United States produced 6.9 billion liters and 7.2 billion liters in the years 2017 and 2019, respectively, which is expected to increase in the future (OECD-FAO 2018). The major players in biodiesel production are Brazil, Indonesia, and Thailand. Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia are the growing producers of biodiesel.


As per estimation, biofuels may provide 27% of the energy need in the transport sector by decreasing 2.1 Gt CO, emissions (IEA 2019a). The production of biofuels may require 100 Mha by 2050 with 65 EJ energy output. The major challenges related to the cost of biofuels can be addressed by increased scale and efficiency.


Germany was the first country that produced electricity (15 GWh) from liquid biofuel in 2001. Therefore, electricity generation from liquid biofuels is considered the new technology, but gradually there is a substantial increase in this field in a few countries. About 6298 GWh is produced by 14 countries in 2018. Among these countries, Italy reportedly produced the highest 4299 GWh electricity. According to an estimate, electricity generation from solid biofuels grew from 94.3 to 184.2 TWh from the year 1990 to 2018 with a 2.4% average annual growth rate. In 2018, solid biofuels produced 6.4% of the electricity, which was the fourth largest source after hydro, wind, and solar power. The United States and the United Kingdom produced

45.7 and 24.9 TWh electricity from solid biofuels, respectively. Figure 6.5 shows the electricity generation percent share from solid biofuels in different countries (IEA 2019b).

Electricity generation percent share from solid biofuels in different countries

FIGURE 6.5 Electricity generation percent share from solid biofuels in different countries.


Biofuels are used in aviation and shipping transportation. Approximately 150,000 flights used biofuels in 2018, but its availability is low in the shipping industry. Biofuels provided 3% energy to road transport in 2017. In 2018, transport biofuel production increased up to 7% with a 3% growth rate in the next five years. To reduce the life cycle carbon intensity, biofuels have an important role to play. The production of ethanol in the United States is expected to stabilize because of relatively low' investment and limited feedstock. Brazil has the target to reach 18% stake of biofuels by 2030, which requires speedy production rate. The European Union has scaled up the cap on edible crop-based biofuels to 3.8% to achieve a 2030 energy target ( Asian countries, namely, China, India, and Thailand, have advanced biofuel projects. In addition, the aviation industry long-term decarbonization targets can be achieved by using biofuels.


The long-term stable policy across the world for the expansion of biofuel producing industry and reduction of cost of production is necessary. Framework for the utilization of biofuels in the road, aviation, and marine sectors are very much required. In fact, international collaboration for the expansion of social, environmental, and economic sustainability through biofuel utilization should be anticipated.


IEA (International Energy Agency), 2019a, Biofuels for transport roadmap. https://webstore.

IEA (International Energy Agency), 2019b, Renewables Information 2019, IEA, Paris, https:// www'

OECD-FAO, 2018, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Agricultural Outlook 2018-2027, 192-206. http://ww'

Tabatabaei, M, Karimi, K., Sarvari Horvath, I., Kumar, R., 2015, Recent trends in biodiesel production. Biofuel Research Journal 7:258-267.

WBAS (World Bioenergy Association Statistics), 2017, www.w'

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