Decentralized Energy from Waste Systems – Biofuel from Waste

Decentralized energy systems, which could include renewable sources and combined heat and power (CHP) stations are of particular interest in low carbon economies. Additionally, the use of biofuels for transport is becoming of increasing importance for a number of reasons, such as climate change, depleting fossil fuel reserves, and reducing reliance on imports. Thus, the production of biofuels in Europe and imports from third countries has increased, and also concerns regarding additional environmental pressures inside and outside the EU. These concerns are mainly due to suboptimal use of biomass resources, finite nature of resources, poor energy efficiency, consequences of the intensification of biofuel production on arable land (increasing pressures on soil, water and biodiversity resources), import of biofuels and difficulties to achieve and to monitor sustainable production of biomass outside Europe.

Biofuels processed from renewable biomass, are suggested as a direct substitute for fossil fuels in transport. A recent study has revealed that bioethanol from biodegradable municipal solid waste offer a considerable potential for reducing green house gas emissions, compared to the current waste management situation in England. Thus, current research and development drivers are the identification of potential renewable energy sources or biomass feedstock and their processing in order to produce alternatives to fossil fuels in transport, such as bioethanol, biodiesel, biomethanol and hydrogen. Biofuels must be derived from biomass feedstock produced with much lower life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions than traditional fossil fuels and with little or no competition with food production. Currently, renewable energy sources represent about 14% of primary-energy consumption in the world, with biomass being the major contributor (i.e., about 10%). Bioethanol is, by far, the most widely used biofuel for transport, and Brazil stands as the largest sugarcane bioethanol world’s leading producer, supplying about half of the global market. In fact, in 2005 Brazil produced 282,000 barrels of bioethanol a day, up from 192,000 barrels in 2001.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the potential of decentralized energy from waste systems to produce biofuels.

In the last five years or so, biofuels have been given notable consideration worldwide as an alternative to fossil fuels, due to their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by partial replacement of oil as a transport fuel. The production of biofuels using a sustainable approach, should consider local production of biofuels, obtained from local feedstocks and adapted to the socio-economical and environmental characteristics of the particular region where they are developed. Thus, decentralized energy from waste systems will exploit local biomass to optimize their production and consumption. Waste streams such as agricultural and wood residues, municipal solid waste, vegetable oils, and algae residues can all be integrated in energy from waste systems. An integral optimization of decentralized energy from waste systems should not be based on the optimization of each single process, but the overall optimization of the whole process. This is by obtaining optimal energy and environmental benefits, as well as collateral beneficial co-products such as soil fertilizers which will result in a higher food crop production and carbon dioxide fixation which will abate climate change.

Read the full article here in PDF format.

Citation: Antizar-Ladislao, B.;Turrion-Gomez, J.L. Decentralized Energy from Waste Systems. Energies 2010, 3, 194-205.

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