‘New method can meet 20 percent of US fuel needs from waste products’

October 15th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 15 (IANS) A flexible new approach on production of alternative fuels from solid and agricultural wastes could supply a fifth of fuels required in transportation in US annually, says a new study. The method offers a potential solution to problems that might be created by increasing production of ethanol with conventional methods, which use corn grain as a feedstock.

Boosting ethanol output with conventional methods would require additional crops and heavy fertiliser use, increasing runoff into waterways and threatening ecosystems, said a Purdue University press release.

The new concept, however, which Purdue researchers call a flexible carbon-to-liquid fuel process, would require no additional crops and use primarily wastes as the feedstock, said Fu Zhao, a Purdue assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

“This technique is more flexible than conventional methods because we can process a wider range of very different feedstocks and, at the same time, we can generate a wider range of end products - not just gasoline and diesel but ethanol and hydrogen. Or we could generate electricity directly from the gas produced,” he said.

The method also would be immune to the market fluctuations of corn and other crops and less affected by disturbances such as feedstock supply shocks and market demand changes. The method also could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent compared with petroleum-derived gasoline.

The analysis suggested that it is possible to replace 15 percent to 20 percent of transportation fuels consumed daily in US with liquids derived from this flexible process. These estimates are based on the present consumption level, which is about 390 million gallons per day, he said.

These findings were presented during the VIth Global Conference on Sustainable Product Development and Life Cycle Engineering in Busan, South Korea.

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