Through two efforts, EPA researchers are finding ways to make the biofuel production and supply chain more sustainable.
Biofuels are produced from renewable energy sources, such as agricultural resources. When used in place of imported fossil fuels, biofuels can help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act called for increased biofuel production. The act also set the standard for renewable fuels to achieve at least a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions from renewable fuels are primarily due to feedstock production, conversion of the feedstock to fuel, and fuel use.
Green chemistry and engineering researchers and their collaborators are developing several membrane technologies in order to demonstrate at the pilot scale the recovery of ethanol from the fermentation of waste biomass. Simulations and experiments have shown that their separations have used less energy than traditional methods. Through cooperative research and development agreements, the researchers are working with several potential end-users to adapt the cost-effective technologies to more biofuel production processes.
A transdisciplinary team of sustainability metrics and life cycle assessment researchers is evaluating the environmental sustainability of existing and future liquid biofuels supply chains using environmental impact measures and sustainability metrics. To create sustainable biofuel supply chains and to produce design rules and guidelines for increased environmental sustainability, the team will use the results of their analysis, expert knowledge, and design methods.
Membrane Technology and Research, Inc.
Department of Energy – NETL
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory
U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Research Service
Ohio State University
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Arizona
University of Pittsburgh
L.M. Vane, F.R. Alvarez, Y. Huang, and R.W. Baker. (2010). “Experimental Validation of Hybrid Distillation-Vapor Permeation Process for Energy Efficient Ethanol-Water Separation.” J. Chem. Tech. Biotechnol, 85: 502–511.