Biofuels are types of fuels that are obtained from carbon fossils in the environment. Because they are derived from Carbon material, these gases do not add to the carbon content in the atmosphere. These fuels have a number of disadvantages and advantages in the society and this paper seeks to explain this fact. Biofuels are of a wide variety, these include; biogas, biodiesel, bio-alcohols and ordinary vegetable oils. They are generally obtained from any carbon source that has over 80% of carbon renewable products e.g. plants. Biodiesel, one of the main Biofuels is made from plain vegetable oil and rapeseed oil and was the first mainstream product of Biofuels and is popularly referred to as first generation Biofuels alongside Bio-ethanol. The greatest advantage of Biodiesel is that it is easily adaptable to any fuel or engine technology in this day and age as compared to other types of gasoline which are known to introduce large amounts of Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Biodiesels are custom made for standardized engines and are thus different from the ordinary oil fuels that are used to power other varieties of engines.
Because of their high prices biodiesel fuels are manufactured with different levels of Biodiesel to cater to the different users within the market. Typically those with a higher level of biodiesel produce less waste into the environment than those with less Biofuels. Biodiesel can still be utilized in its uncontaminated form though it may require a number of adjustments to ensure it does not corrupt the engine. This optimum state can be reached through combining two components concurrently while pouring into the fuel tank. Biodiesels can be applied to vehicles, air and rail transport though in different forms. Biodiesel has diverse solvent properties than petro diesel, therefore can destroy natural rubber gaskets and hoses in vehicles but in can be used in its purest form in air engines. On the contrary, it can be used in its mildest form when mixed with petro diesel in rail engines, about 14%.
Biodiesel can also be used domestically as a source of heat. When mixed with simple heating oil, Biodiesel produces large amount of heat that can even be applied commercially with factories as Bioheat. Aged heating systems may have difficulty burning the product due to its solvent properties which can affect the rubber parts and in turn block the server pipes but in any case this can be avoided by use of blended biodiesel (Gustafon, 2003). Biodiesel is no doubt a secure means of fuel for the entire globe as it minimizes the use of crude oil. It is easily produced from locally available resources that are both readily available and environmental friendly. The issue of relying solely on Biofuels is of great discussion in many forums as Biofuels means that more natural plants are to be used thus eroding the earth cover only to produce Biodiesel. The advantages of Biofuels will however be discussed later in this essay.
Biogas much like biodiesel is produced by disintegrating carbon material but in this case anaerobically. This leads to the production of many gas fuels including; methane, butane, propane among others. When burnt with oxygen, these gases produce energy that can be tapped and used for heating purposes. The heat can also be used commercially in heating furnaces or to power motor vehicles. It is produced by ingesting rotting plant or carbon matter into digesters that are used to process waste materials into sludge. When introduced into the chambers, all oxygen is tapped out then the transformation process begins. The ensuing methane, butane or propane gas is then fed into a container to prevent it from escaping and mixing with oxygen n the air and causing an explosion when ignited. Production plants are thus strongly advised to tap all gas produced to avoid this hazardous effect. The lower volatile limit is 5% methane while the upper limit is 15% methane. The methane content in biogas is several times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than ordinary carbon dioxide. For that reason untapped gas which enters into the air may considerably add to the effects of global warming (Gustafon, 2003). Furthermore, biogas contributes to the formation of industrial smog.
Biogas can be advantageously used for electricity, domestic cooking, water heating and powering furnaces and combustion engines as mentioned. If effectively tapped, biogas can produce up to 3% of a country's power supply (PracticalAction, 2010). For instance, by using livestock waste and manure, numerous livestock around the globe would be able to power many countries. According to Juerg (2007), the use of manure to produce biogas would reduce the emission of green house gases such as Nitrous oxide and methane into the atmosphere; these gases combined have a higher negative ozone effect than combusted methane. The habitual use of biogas fuel would mean; utilizing fossil fuels, preserving forests and other plant matter, cleverly using livestock residues for fuel, saving money, faster preparation of meals, better hygiene conditions, enhancing local industrialization and electricity production, improving the country standard of living, and dropping air and water pollution.
Raw biogas however has a number of adverse effects. When produced, the immediate product is roughly 60% methane and the rest is a mixture of other gases such as Hydrogen Sulphide. If this gas were to be used as is in industrial machinery, the Hydrogen Sulphide within the gas would corrode the internal parts of the burner causing the machine to be ineffective. Thus it is important that during the production of biogas, all impurities including Hydrogen Sulphide are eliminated to produce about 99% worth of methane gas in biogas. The gas can be treated chemically by use if materials that are capable of dissolving all impurities within the methane gas. The most common method however is by use of the water washing method whereby the Hydrogen sulphide and other impurities are absorbed by water moving counter to the flow of the gas. This method produces almost perfect methane gas with a loss of about 4% of the methane used to power the purification process (PracticalAction, 2010).
Biogas is gradually becoming an alternative to natural gas especially when domestically used as a mixture of fuels.
Bio-alcohols such as methanol and ethanol are also popular forms of Biofuels that have a wide variety of timeless domestic medicinal and industrial uses. Their ability of being biologically manufactured and good solvent properties cause them to be first choices for many purposes. Firstly, these liquids are derived by processing fossil fuels or simply dissolving various amounts of Carbon dioxide in water. The fermentation process has been used in many instances but in this day and age, many manufacturers have resorted to using enzyme to chemically manufacture these products. Used as fuels, these two gases poses many advantages over contemporary petroleum and diesel because they both have a higher octane rating which prevent the knocking of engines and a the same time possess a higher combustion rate thus producing less exhaust into the atmosphere.
Although methanol and ethanol are greatly being adopted as motor vehicle fuels, they possess a number of disadvantages of some things are not considered. For instance, these chemicals contain halide and chloride ions that are known to corrode motor engine parts which increase the conductivity of the system in turn causing chemical reactions which form insoluble hydroxide products that clog the vehicle engine pipes over time. To decrease these effects, ethanol alone is being increasingly used as a fuel additive to gasoline as it is less corrosive when used alone and is less toxic to humans. Methanol is considered an option mainly in fast car racing as its high combustion levels greatly powers engines causing them to move at a faster speed. Its use as mainstream source of fuel is however debatable. Aside from motor vehicle engines, methanol and ethanol have also been medically adopted with the former being used to clean and sanitize wounds t the same time killing bacteria. Ethanol on the other hand when processed into alcohol is used as a beverage for many. Processed alcohol and ethanol are not much different but it is strongly advisable not to consume ethanol as it contains small percentages of methanol that have been known to cause blindness or even death.
The last but not least biofuel is Vegetable oil. Although it is generally used as an edible source of food, vegetable oil can be used to power various fuel engines. For machines that are used to burning diesel, vegetable oil will have to be burnt with coils or heat exchangers to lower its viscosity to that of normal diesel failure to which it may cause clogging and destruction of machines due to unprocessed materials lying inside the engine (Chinongoza, 2008). Although this process is quite extensive and expensive, large engine producing corporations such as Deutz AG have successfully managed to manufacture engines that are vegetable oil compatible. A number of conversion methods have been developed in an effort to enable various engines to easily use vegetable oil as a source of fuel to power the vehicle.
At the same time, vegetable oils and animal fats can be chemically hydrogenated to produce a hydrocarbon fuel high in Cetane and low in Sulphides that are known to corrupt engines. The fats and oils impregnated with hydrogen can be fused with diesel oils too, to produce a convenient fuel that is less susceptible to microbial activity and can still be active in various temperatures and pressure conditions (Chinongoza, 2008). In the same way Bioethers can similarly be used with hydrogenated vegetable fat to reduce knocking in engines. They contain high levels of octane that are responsible to for the anti knocking in turn boosting engine performance while easing the wearing out of engines and reducing exhaust emission. The use of this product is also widely adopted due to its cheap and cost effectiveness. Another obvious use and advantage of vegetable oil is its use in the culinary area as it is healthier than animal fats which are known to condense and accumulate in parts of the body causing various unwanted illnesses. All in all vegetable oils have a variety of uses not only in the kitchen but also as a method of powering motor engines.
The fact that Biofuels exist in a variety of states and forms makes them user friendly and more convenient to the human race. Drawing an example from the various Biofuels discussed above, it is evident that a number of innovations have been made to tap into natural resources that improve our living standards as well as preserve the environment. Biofuels are a secure form of energy supply not only due to the facts discussed above but also because of the following factors. Firstly, Biofuels are well known to have a lesser carbon emission rate as compared to other fossil fuels thus reducing the carbon effect in the environment. Secondly, Biofuels are renewable, recyclable and reversible as compared to their natural gases counterparts. Many of the items used to produce Biofuels are environmental waste products such as livestock manure and maize cobs that turn into convenient energy sources.
As compared to other natural sources such as natural gas and crude oil that have to be dug from the earths crust, Biofuels are easily obtained with little or no strain on the earths crust. Also during production and creation of any industrial product, human labor is required therefore; this endeavor creates numerous jobs for many Americans. Biofuels have made countries independent because they now produce their own energy thus reducing feuds over minerals. It is also true that the initial cost of manufacturing Biofuels to be used in our homes and industries is a tall order but in the end, the use of these products is cheaper than using other fuels such as coal and kerosene. As mentioned, the manufacture of some fuels such as Biodiesel would require the use of crops therefore the competition for this resource would mean that farmers acquire a better wage for the cultivation of these much needed crops (Pillai, 2009). In addition, Biofuels contribute to climate change and the policies surrounding it therefore continuous use of these products especially in less developed countries around the globe would mean that new and better opportunities for economic growth in these countries would be greatly enabled (Juerg, 2007).
In conclusion, the implications, advantages and disadvantages of manufacturing Biofuels and solely relying on them has been a matter of great discussion in America, but many forums have suggested that the complete change into adopting and using these products is a real option which will not only strengthen the economy but in turn positively utilize and preserve the environment (Pillai, 2009). The market for these goods is no doubt in existence and steadily increasing therefore it is time that America begins to embrace and nurture these products for use in the society.