News and Trends

Indonesia's biodiesel consumption is seen soaring to 7.9 million kilolitres next year, according to an industry body, adding that increased demand is crucial for the country to meet its goals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer, is pushing greater biodiesel use to reduce its oil import and create more demand for the tropical oil. Paulus Tjakrawan, chairman at the Indonesian Biofuel Producers Association, also said the government may look to bring forward its 30 percent blend requirement. Indonesia missed last year's biodiesel targets due to logistical and infrastructure problems, coupled with a failure to enforce its mandate.

Indonesia promised to curb its rising greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as it is under international pressure to limit the destruction of carbon-rich peatlands and forests which cause choking smoke to spread across much of Southeast Asia.

The government of Japan recently launched a project in the Philippines to produce biodiesel from used cooking oil.

The project, located in Davao City, aims to collect used cooking oil (UCO) from households and businesses for use in biodiesel production. This project marks the first time this technology is used outside of Japan, and the Japanese government hopes that it will serve as model for future endeavors in other cities.

Tomoko Dodo, director of Japan's Consular Office in Davao City, is confident it will also work for the Philippines.

‘From this year until March 2016, [Davao] city will conduct a viability study to see if there is enough UCO that can be collected. If it is viable, we will go to the next stage and build a plant where all the used cooking oil will be converted into biodiesel fuel,' said Dodo.

The Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources classifies UCO as toxic and hazardous, and the fact that it cannot legally be washed down the drain worsens the problem. A similar problem was faced in Japan, but the construction of a biodiesel plant help ease the issue.

The Brazilian special committee on national development has approved a senate bill outlining the plan to increase the biodiesel blend in the nation's fuel supply.

The new bill mandates a 7% of biodiesel be blended into diesel fuel, and the amount is set to increase to 10% within three years. Calls have also been made to further increase the blend to 15% if tests with the newly-set blending levels have positive results.

The bill would also require a 20% biodiesel use for diesel-powered public transport vehicles in cities with more than 500,000 residents. The special committee cited soya-based biodiesel's environmental and economic benefits as their reasons for approving the measure.

The bill will next be discussed by the Brazilian House of Representatives.

Tokyo based waste-to-energy technology manufacturer JFE Engineering Corporation has received an order to build the first waste incineration power plant in Myanmar's (Burma) Yangon City using the bilateral Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) between Myanmar and Japan.

The company explained that JCM is a scheme that enables Japan to achieve its emission reduction target through reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in developing nations that were results of the dissemination of Japanese low-carbon technologies, products, and services.

The planned waste to energy plant will have a capacity of 60 tonnes per day, and will generate approximately 700 kW of electrical power. In addition to supplementing Myanmar's current inadequate supply of electric power, the plant will also reduce CO2 emissions by about 2400 t-CO2/year.

Research and Development

Microalga contains the highest fat content among biomaterials commonly used to produce biofuel, and it has replaced corn and barley as a favored source for the industry.

This prompted a National Taiwan University (NTU) research team, led by chemistry professor Wu Chia-wen, to synthesize a magnetic nanoparticle for harvesting microalgae, extracting its oil and converting the oil's fatty acids into a methyl ester, which is used in biodiesel.

Traditional algae-harvesting methods require large amounts of energy to break down cell walls, but the team's nanoparticles effectively convert algae oil to biodiesel compared with existing methods.

The team used iron oxide and silicon dioxide to form nanoparticles, which, when applied to algae solution, magnetically attract algae and convert their fat into biodiesel with an alkaline-based catalyst. The nanoparticles can also turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

A research being led in part by Art Ragauskas of the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor's Chair for Biorefining seeks to find alternate uses for lignin, a by-product of biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass. If successful, it would increase the overall profitability of producing biofuels, making them more attractive to producers.

Lignin allows plant cells to hold their shape. However, that same strength that is beneficial to plants is a hindrance in biofuel processing. Currently, more than half of all lignin is treated as a waste product. Previous studies have shown that lignin can be genetically modified to allow for greater processing into fuel. This would reduce waste and allow more freedom in using the lignin byproduct.

"Anything that helps improve the ability to separate lignin from cellulose materials will, in turn, increase the usability of the lignin," said Ragauskas. "The key is just finding ways to better remove those bonds and then to utilize this valuable resource in an innovative manner."

Energy Crops and Feedstocks for Biofuels Production

Glenn Miller, a professor in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, is leading a project at the University of Nevada, Reno to convert roadside gumweed (Grindelia squarosa) into biofuel, which could help contribute to fuel supplies for the military.

Gumweed contains extractable hydrocarbons which can be used for biodiesel. It is native in Nevada and grows on the side of freeways and is an arid land crop that requires less water. Gumweed was grown at the University's Field Laboratory using minimal water and fertilizer resources. After growing and harvesting the gumweed, it went through biomass processing.

The biofuel product from the process can produce up to 122 gallons per acre on a biennial basis on the semi-arid lands of Nevada. The crops would require minimum inputs of nutrients and water, and have the potential to be converted into jet fuel, which has garnered the interest from the military of the United States.

The team is also working on a project to identify a catalyst that can be used to convert biomass into fuel using the oxidation process.

Research has recently focused on using agro-residues for growing microbial biomass as feedstock for biodiesel production. However, pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass is necessary, increasing production costs.

Hardik Kakkad of the Savitribai Phule Pune University in India studied a fungal isolate from the tropical mangrove wetlands, Aspergillus candidus IBBG4, for its growth on waste agro-residues, such as banana peel, copra meal, corn cob, grape stalks and sugarcane bagasse, without any pre-treatment. 

The resulting fungal biomass was subjected to direct acid transesterification for fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) extraction. Maximum FAME production was obtained on fungi grown in raw untreated banana peel and sugarcane bagasse. Biodiesel fuel properties of the extracted FAME were found to pass the international and national biodiesel standards, suggesting their suitability as biodiesel fuel.

The results in the study revealed the potential of A. candidus IBBG4 grown on raw untreated banana peel and sugarcane bagasse for biofuel production.