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Current generation biofuels use raw materials derived from traditionally cultivated crops such as sunflower and soybean for generating biodiesel, and corn for bioethanol. There is a debate raging about the benefits of biofuels, with some parties claiming that biofuels have a similar carbon footprint to fuels derived from petrochemicals.

So called second generation biofuels are about four years from being commercialized. Next generation technologies are being developed to convert lignin and cellulose-based woody materials as well as crop-byproducts such as waste husks directly into sugars that may be readily converted into biofuels. Such next generation technologies promise to have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared with their petrochemical equivalents.

Technologies that are expected to emerge from the laboratories in the next few years range from enzymes that convert cellulose into sugars being by companies such as Novozymes, through to gasification technologies being developed by Choren.

BP and Chevron separately are also developing algal systems which are high yield and fast growing. Per hectare algae may provide 15 times more diesel than crops cultivated on land, experts say. Algae could potentially be grown and harvested offshore and so avoid the conflict arising from growing biofuels on land that might otherwise have been used to cultivate food crops. Novel biofuels technologies are being developed globally.

See articles below for some of the latest biofuels technology developments:

People & Business :: Green Issues

Biofuels - Obstacles on the Road to Sustainability

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