An Introduction to Biofuels


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Melissa Toifl, scientist at CSIRO and Scientist in Schools mentor, produced this presentation for Year 8 students at Hawkesdale P12 College.

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An Introduction to Biofuels

  1. 1. Prepared for Hawksdale P12 College, Melissa Toifl CSIRO
  2. 2.  Biofuels are liquid fuels that have been developed from other materials such as plant or animal waste matter. Image from:
  3. 3.  Peak Oil  Finite Fossil Fuels  Carbon Footprint  Energy Security  Cleaner more sustainable fuel source  Less emissions  Benefits for regional Australia
  4. 4.  Competition with food crops – ethanol and some biofuels  Higher variability in costs  Infrastructure for producing biofuels  Market for fuel blends (flexi-fuel vehicles). Currently E10 is common but higher ethanol to petrol blends such as E85 are not common  Only about 5 % of the 8 000 plus service stations across Australia are now selling ethanol or biodiesel blends.
  5. 5.  Bioethanol  Is an alcohol  Made by fermenting sugar and starch components of plant materials by using a strain of yeast  Ethanol is currently most commonly used as fuel for vehicles in a blended petrol form Sugarbeet soon to be produced into ethanol
  6. 6.  Biodiesel  Is not an alcohol  Is produced from renewable plant or animal feedstocks which contain long chain fatty acids  Can be used as fuel for vehicles  Canola, algae, sunflower, mustard crops can all make suitable biofuels Canola crop Image courtesy of CSIRO
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  8. 8.  Different species of algae can be used  Seawater and freshwater species  Algae that are good for biofuels have a high lipid (fatty acid) content  Some species grow rapidly and are more resilient than others  Algae require warmer temperatures, correct light/sunlight, and sufficient nutrients to grow
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  13. 13.  Raceway ponds or photo bioreactors most common for algal based biofuels
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  16. 16.  Shallow water is best as algae tend to grow close to the surface because they like sunlight  Shallow water will also be warmer – required for maximum growth  Conditions required for good algal production are more likely to be found in the upper half of Australia
  17. 17.  Need to collect the algae  Then need to remove the excess water  Some common methods to do this:  Centrifugation  Flocculation  Filtration  Difficult with large scale algal production
  18. 18.  Once the algae was had the water removed, it is dried and then the oil extraction can be done  Mechanical presses  Chemical extraction by breaking the cell membranes (walls) down with chemicals  Solvent extraction by dissolving the algae in hexane or another solvent  Algal oil is then ready to be turned into a fuel  May involve extracting different fractions and combining with additives and other fuels
  19. 19.  Lots of research in all areas of biodiesel production  Designs around growing algae – what is best, conditions required  Harvesting methods – problems with dewatering and costs  Processing methods can be expensive
  20. 20.  Biofuels are almost certain to play an important role in future fuel supplies  Lots of research in this area all over the world including Australia  Advances are being made quickly in some areas  New methods are being developed for all steps of algal fuel production