This report focuses on the technical and economic outlook for biologically-based liquid fuels that can substitute for conventional petroleum-derived gasoline (which we call “biogasoline”). Currently, the primary commercial type of biogasoline is bioethanol, but other types are being developed to meet various challenges. We also consider commercial and strategic factors that drive the broad-based global developments in this field. This report is intended to answer the following critical questions regarding biogasoline:
Overall, the bioethanol industry is evolving, as it must, from a base primarily of fermenting grain (corn, wheat, milo, etc.), sugar (sugarcane and beet), and starch (cassava, potatoes, etc.) to cellulose fermentation and gasification. However, technologies for thermal-chemical conversion of biomass also can serve to make biogasoline, which can have a major impact on overall vehicle fuel supplies in the future. Figure 1 summarizes perceived aspects, in broad terms, of the biogasoline industry’s likely evolution from its current state to what it is likely to be in 10-15 years.
Figure 1 Projected Evolution of Biofuels Production
Technology development generally is not a precise process, and can take many routes. The process is not always efficient, and advances reflect a certain element of trial and error as well as luck. Ultimately, however, the history of the process industries indicates that the key drivers that determine “technology evolution” are:
Another approach to technology development is to adapt and combine existing technologies, and leverage current experience to achieve a “path of least resistance” configuration, which might be sub-optimum, but which can be commercialized with least risk. The following are several “path of least resistance” configurations that might be used to advance the biofuels industry and come to grips with various basic challenges, which we believe can be most rapidly commercialized with relatively low risk.
Another way to organize biofuels technologies is by major routes, or “platforms”. The two major platforms vying to make gasoline range motor fuels, fermentation and gasification, have widely different characteristics and involve different developmental issues. Table 1 provides a comparison among these two routes.
Table 1 Comparison of Two Platforms for Biogasoline
Figure 2 provides a picture of:
We have presented the entire complex of biofuels developments, including biodiesel, to put biogasoline in context with the larger biofuels development effort (with biodiesel elements represented in background tones). Beyond this are related developments in utility generation of electricity through biomass gasification and combustion, anaerobic digestion for substitute natural gas and power production, and chemicals and biobased materials production.
Figure 2 Current and Emerging Liquid Biofuels Technologies
Among potential feedstocks, the hierarchy of supply volumes available is indicated on the left of Figure 2 as increasing from top to bottom, while volumetric costs, inversely, are highest at the top for natural oils and fats and lowest at the bottom for biomass. The technologies, as indicated on the right, are generally arranged from most commercial at the top to less so towards the bottom.
Table 2 profiles the leading biogasoline technologies that Nexant evaluated for analysis in this study.
Table 2 Status of Selected Emerging Biogasoline Technologies
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