Fossil Fuels

Biodiesel Bioethanol How are industries developing/reacting to this need?

By February 4, 2019 No Comments

Biodiesel & Bioethanol. With the focus returning on liquid fuels relevance & importance, how are the industries developing & reacting to this need?

Diesel, Biodiesel, BioEthanol, Renewable energy, Ethanol & Liquid fuels; We are all aware that liquid fuels will remain ever prevalent in our economies & will fuel our cars, trucks, ships, trains & planes for the foreseeable future. Previous Dolphin N2 articles have explored developments in diesel fuels & engine technologies which continue to utilise & exploit the benefits of the internal combustion engine for the next generation of vehicles and prime movers.

Dolphin N2 reported last November that:

“Some 270 new types of diesel cars type-approved against the latest Euro 6d-TEMP standard were introduced on the European market over the past year (2018). The new data shows that all of these diesel cars performed well below the NOx threshold of the real driving emissions (RDE) test, which applies to all new car types since September 2017. What is more, already today most of these vehicles show results that are below the stricter NOx threshold that will be mandatory from January 2020.

Each of these 270 RDE-compliant diesel vehicle types represents a whole ‘family’ of similar cars of differing variants, so a multitude of low-emitting diesel cars are now available on the market. The German automobile club, ADAC, estimates that there are more than 1,200 different RDE-compliant cars available today1. Moreover, their availability is increasing rapidly.” (1)

Despite these advancements throughout 2018, the consumer market has reflected badly on the automotive industries continuation of a diesel range. The Guardian reported in December 2018 that the UK car manufacturing production had:

‘fallen for six months in a row, and year-to-date output is more than 8% lower in the first 11 months of 2018, compared to 2017. There were 1.44m cars produced by British factories up to November – a decline of just over 129,000 on last year.’ (2)

As we come into 2019, Jaguar Land Rover have announced that 4500 jobs are to be lost predominantly throughout their UK manufacturing plants at administration & management levels. Jaguar Land Rover have cited the slump in the Chinese markets, EU diesel legislations & BREXIT uncertainty for their decision.

However, liquid fuels & liquid fuel applications continue to be developed & embraced by the heavy haulage, shipping & rail sectors, with a greater emphasis on engine & fuel development, rather than, for example in the domestic car market focusing on electrification.

Two examples of how industry giants are utilising the ‘dual fuel’ systems for shipping, are DAIHATSU & KAWSAKI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, who continue to fly the flag for the development of liquid fuel applications.


Daihatsu have embraced the need for the shipping Co2 emissions reductions in a variety of ways. They offer SCR but also a range of clean burning dual fuel DF engines. The Daihatsu DF engines, switch seamlessly between gas & liquid fuel &, unlike a conventional diesel engine, can cut NOx by up to 80% during gas mode operation.  (3)

Kawasaki Heavy Industries: Two-stroke Marine Diesel Engine

Working against the backdrop of IMO (International Maritime Organization) Tier III NOx regulations applied since2016; Kawasaki has completed Kawasaki-ECO system “K-ECOS” which is a Eco-friendly system combined with T/C (Turbocharger) cut system, EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) and/or WEF (Water Emulsified Fuel) for two-stroke diesel engines. Kawasaki continues to build on technological developments related to marine vessels to minimise environmental impact. (4)

Evidently, engines are still being developed for  liquid fuel applications, but what are the indicators for future liquid fuel development & what are the industry ‘buzz words’ in the liquid fuels markets?

The National Biodiesel Conference, San Diego began on 22nd January 2019 with a clear message from Donnell Rehagen, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, extolling the virtues & resilience of the American Biodiesel companies for their resolve & determination in the face of adversity. BIODIESEL Magazine recognised that:

‘Today, the (BIODIESEL) industry produces nearly 3 billion gallons annually and supports more than 60,000 jobs across the country. The LCFS is expected to make California alone a 1 billion-gallon market for biodiesel in the coming years.’ (5)

With biodiesel being made from an increasingly diverse resource base including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil & animal fats, biodiesel is recognised as a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement which can be used in existing diesel engines without a need for modifications. America are not the only country forging ahead with their research, development & roll out of biodiesel. Other global projects are in development. In the west Indian city of Pune, Scientists at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), have discovered a way of converting industrial biomass into an organic biofuel. Scandinavian company NextFuel presented their Elephant Grass & Bagasse based carbon neutral fuel at COP24 (2018). Exxon Mobil & Synthetic Genomics have produced an algae based biofuel with the intention of using this product as a low-emission transportation fuel & UK company, Argent Energy established in 2001, uses waste fats & oils to ensure a fully sustainable biodiesel production.

Biodiesel Producers are developing ingenious ways to utilise waste product & the sustainably grown organic matter but, what other liquid fuel developments are being recognised by the automotive industries?

Bioethanol has of course been a huge part of the liquid fuel mix for a considerable length of time. Bioethanol is carbon neutral since the carbon dioxide & water released during refining and combustion is equal to the carbon captured from the atmosphere as the crop is growing.  This makes bioethanol an extremely attractive alternative to traditional gasoline & petrol.

Traditionally, the fuel crops being used for ethanol production are maize, corn & wheat crops, waste straw, willow, sawdust, reed canary grass, cord grasses, Jerusalem artichoke, Myscanthus & sorghum plants.

So, who are currently the largest producers of bioethanol & where else is bioethanol being developed? Currently, Brazil & the US account for over 70% of all ethanol production in the world, with the USA producing an estimated 6,500 Million gallons a year. However, despite Brazil & the USA being a considerable way down the developmental road & holding a considerable market share in the bioethanol markets; the UK has some way to go.

Fleetnews reported in July 2018 that the introduction of E10 (petrol with 10% renewable bioethanol) was being delayed again after the UK Government were “launching another consultation on E10 petrol”

Richard Royal, head of Government affairs at Vivergo said:

“Yet another call for evidence, followed by another consultation, only adds to the industry’s precarious position and calls into question whether the Government is taking the advice and the ultimate aim of cleaning up transport seriously,”

“We also disagree with the document’s assertion that E10’s impact on air quality is ‘negligible’ – countless recent studies have shown a direct correlation between increasing ethanol levels and reducing pollutants such as particulates, as well as suggesting that E10 could reduce NOx by up to 34%, particulate matter and nanoparticles by up to 96%, and carcinogens by around 7%.” (6)

Therefore, we can see that the liquid fuels market is still thriving & striving to continually develop more sustainable & environmentally attractive alternatives for the internal combustion engine. However, what is evident, is that some countries are more willing to embrace the fuel alternatives & seek out a more balanced use of automotive fuel systems & applications.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason on behalf of Dolphin N2.