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Energy consumption is inevitable for human existence. There are various reasons for the search of an alternative fuel that is technically feasible, environmentally acceptable, economically competitive, and readily available. The first primary reason is the increasing demand for fossil fuels in all sections of human life, be it transportation, power generation, industrial processes, and residential consumption. The requirement of fuels for the production of electricity and running of vehicles, and cooking is increasing gradually.
Today, every country draws its energy needs from a variety of sources. The sources can be broadly categorized as commercial and noncommercial. The commercial sources include the fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), hydroelectric power and nuclear power, while the non-commercial sources include wood, animal wastes and agricultural wastes. In an industrialized country like, U.S.A., most of the energy requirements are met from commercial sources, while in an industrially less developed country like India, the use of commercial and non-commercial sources are approximately equal. (R.Rajasekaran, G.Vijayaraghavan, & Marimuthu, 2014)
Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, countries looked to biofuels to substitute the use of fossil fuel including impelled national programs for bioethanol production (Worldwatch 2007) while others (e.g. China, Kenya, and Zimbabwe) acted in response to the oil crisis but were not able to sustain biofuel production (Liu 2005; Karekezi et al. 2004). When oil prices decreased again, the impetus for alternative fuels retreated—except in Brazil. Current drivers of the alternative energy supply include issues of energy supply security, oil price volatility, climate change, production costs, and more. (Govinda R & Zilberman, 2014). Bioethanol production and use has spread to every corner of the globe. As concerns over petroleum supplies and global warming continue to grow, more nations are looking to bioethanol and renewable fuels as a way to counter oil dependency and environmental impacts.
World production reached a record high of nearly 23 billion gallons in 2010 and is expected to exceed 1,20,000 million mark by the end of the year 2020. While the US became the world’s largest producer of fuel bioethanol in 2010, Brazil remains a close second, and China, India, Thailand and other nations are speedily expanding their own domestic bioethanol industries. Increased production and use of bioethanol have also led to a growing international trade for the renewable fuel. While the massive majority of bioethanol is consumed in the country in which it is produced, some nations are finding it more profitable to export bioethanol to countries like the US and Japan. The increased trade of bioethanol around the world is helping to open up new markets for all sources of bioethanol.
The sustainable production of bioethanol requires well planned and sound development programs to assure that the numerous environmental, social and economic concerns related to its use are addressed adequately. The key for making bioethanol competitive as an alternative fuel is the ability to produce it from low-cost biomass. Many countries around the world are working extensively to develop new technologies for bioethanol production from biomass, from which the lignocellulosic materials conversion seem to be the most promising one. (Brajpai, 2013).
The increasing demand for bioethanol for various industrial purposes such as alternative source of energy, industrial solvents, cleansing agents and preservatives has necessitated increased production of this alcohol. Bioethanol production is usually accomplished by chemical synthesis of petrochemical substrates and conversion of carbohydrates present in agricultural products. Owing to depleting reserves and competing industrial needs of petrochemical feedstocks, there is global emphasis in bioethanol production by acid hydrolysis process. Increased yield of bioethanol production by acid hydrolysis depends on the use of ideal acid and suitable process technology. (Ali, 2011).
However, concerns about the sustainability of biofuel feedstock production, in particular, the impacts on food supply, the land use change associated with it and the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have alleviated some of the enthusiasm for biofuels in recent years and may affect future demand. Controversies regarding the scaling up of biofuel production gained prominence with rising food prices and the consequent global food crisis in recent years. With significant amounts of food crops being diverted to biofuel production, it was expected to help reduce GHG emissions due to the size of the transportation sector’s energy consumption in most economies, yet the conversion of forest lands and pastures for the cultivation of biofuel feedstock could release more GHGs than biofuels will reduce through substitution of petroleum. (Govinda R & Zilberman, 2014)
Energy independence has become a major issue for most nations around the globe in recent years. Each country has its unique profile in terms of energy production, consumption and its impact on the environment. (Kumar & Sani, 2018). Rising oil prices and uncertainty over the security of existing fossil fuel reserves, combined with concerns over global climate change, have created the need for new transportation fuels and bioproducts to substitute for fossil carbon-based resources. Bioethanol is considered to be the next-generation transportation fuel with the most potential, and significant quantities of bioethanol are currently being produced from agro wastes via a acid hydrolysis process. Utilizing lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock is perceived as the next step toward significantly expanding bioethanol production. Therefore, pretreatment is required to increase the surface accessibility of carbohydrate polymers.
The aim of the pretreatment process is to break down the lignin structure and disrupt the crystalline structure of cellulose, so that the acids or enzymes can easily access and hydrolyze the cellulose. Pretreatment can be the most expensive step in biomass-to-fuels conversion process but it has great potential for improvements in efficiency and lowering of costs through further research and development. (Bajpai, 2016) The last two decades witnessed the extensive use of fossil fuels to meet the per capita demands of energy which ignited the debate on the challenges related to: exhaustion of fossil fuel reservoirs, energy crisis in subsequent years, carbon emission and climate change. This led to the utilization of cellulosic agro wastes for biofuel production.
These lignocellulosic biomass not only offers the potential for being ideal feedstock for liquid biofuels (bioethanol, butanol) but has tremendous potential in gaseous fuel production as well as value-added products. Lignocellulose became the ‘renewable gold’ after the introduction of ‘biorefinery’ concept to deal with renewable energy and production of value-added chemicals. (Kumar & Sani, 2018). Thus, biomass can play an important role in the domestic bio-based economy by producing a variation of biofuels and biochemicals that are currently derived from petroleum-based feedstock. (Khanal, 2010)
Energy is an indispensable component of humanity. Our modern society depends on energy for almost everything ranging from home appliances, lighting, transportation, heating/cooling, communication, to industrial processes to supply commodities for our day-to-day needs. We currently consume around 500 Quadrillion Btu (QBtu) of energy, and about 92% of it comes from non-renewable sources such as petroleum, coal, natural gas and nuclear. Historically, the price of crude petroleum oil has been very low (in the range of $20 per barrel during 80’s and 90’s). From the turn of this century, the crude petroleum prices continued to rise and reached as high as $141 per barrel in early July of 2008. Diminishing reserves, in the face of rapidly increasing energy consumption, combined with an increasing lack of energy security due to regional conflicts, and the environmental destruction that results from greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, clearly suggest that we must act urgently and decisively to develop sustainable, clean, affordable and renewable energy sources.
Fossil fuels immensely contribute to environmental pollution, degradation and also boost greenhouse gas emission leading to depletion of ozone layer (Rabah et al., 2014). Biofuel is a renewable energy source and hence can be used as an alternative to conventional fossil. (Annika, Suryawanshi, Nair, & Patel, 2017). Nobody can dispute that fossil fuels supplies are finite, but what is uncertain is the extent of the reserves remaining, and how long these will last. Over the years, there have been a large number of estimates based on present consumption, reserves and predicted new sources. It is also clear that the supply of fossil fuels is finite, considering how it was produced, but the discussion centers around how long the stocks will last and the level of the fossil fuel reserves.
The world’s dependence on a constant supply of energy means that whatever the estimate of the fossil fuel reserves, renewable sources need to be introduced as quickly as possible. (Scragg, 2009) Excessive use of fossil resources causes global warming and depletes available crude oil. Humans have acquired the technology to consume and convert crude oil and gain a wide range of benefits from it, but this has also led to massive emissions of carbon dioxide into the environment.
Unless our society shifts away from the consumption of crude oil and fossil fuels to the re-cyclical use of renewable resources such as biomass, it is difficult to secure sustainability of human life. The conversion of biomass into biofuels, chemicals, energy, and new materials is now vital to solving these problems. Production of bioethanol plays a dominant role in the conversion system due to its high productivity and applicability as liquid fuel and chemical resource. (Watanabe, 2013). Renewable energy derived from wind, solar (photovoltaics), geothermal, ocean (tidal), hydropower, and biomass, all can equally contribute to our renewable energy portfolio. Although, only 8% of our current energy consumption comes from renewable sources, there are tremendous research and technology development efforts toward the development of numerous forms of renewable energy. Biofuel/bioenergy derived from biomass (lignocelluloses) has received significant attention lately and is considered a leading candidate for renewable energy generation, especially for transportation and cooking fuel. (Khanal, 2008).
Disadvantages of fossil fuel derived cooking fuels (greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, resource depletion, unbalanced supply-demand relations) are strongly reduced or even absent with bio-cooking fuels. Of all biofuels, bio-bioethanol gel is already produced on a fair scale. It produces less greenhouse emissions than fossil fuel (carbon dioxide is recycled from the atmosphere to produce biomass); can replace harmful fuel additives (e.g., methyl tertiary butyl ether) and produces jobs for farmers and refinery workers. (Brajpai, 2013). The depleting fossil fuel reservoirs, over-dependency of developing countries on fossil fuels to meet the day to day rising demands, global climate change by increased carbon foot prints have compelled countries to take significant initiatives towards the use of renewable bioresources for their sustainable development. The trilema of E’s (Energy, Environment and Economy) lead the global scientific community to develop policies to move from fossil-based economy to bio-based economy which is initiated as Biorefinery. Biorefineries integrate eco-friendly and more efficient technologies to cut down the rate of harmful emissions that contribute to the failing environmental conditions. Though renewable lignocellulosic biomass generated via photosynthesis has the inherent potential to quench the rising energy demands, there are technological challenges associated with the structural complexity of lignin, cellulose and hemicelluloses. (Kumar & Sani, 2018).
One of the main reasons for using bioethanol is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GHGs are gases that impair the Earth’s ability to radiate thermal energy to space. Bioethanol produced from ligno-cellulosics by saccharification and fermentation processes have been reported to have much lower life cycle fossil energy use and GHG emissions than conventional petroleum-derived fuel (Sheehan et al. 2003; Wang 2005; Larsen et al. 2009). For cellulosic bioethanol gel, it is estimated that GHG emissions will be reduced by about 85 % for E10 and E85. (Watanabe, 2013)
Development of sustainable energy systems based on renewable biomass feedstocks is now a global effort. Biofuels produced from various lignocellulosic materials, such as wood, agricultural, or forest residues, have the potential to be a valuable substitute for fossil fuels. Bioethanol gel produces slightly less greenhouse emissions than fossil cooking fuel (carbon dioxide is recycled from the atmosphere to produce biomass); can replace harmful fuel additives (e.g., methyl tertiary butyl ether), and produces jobs for farmers and refinery workers (Bajpai, 2016). Fuel bioethanol as an alternative fuel replacing the fossil fuels based one has been attracting international interest because of the increasing demand for energy resources (R.Rajasekaran, G.Vijayaraghavan, & Marimuthu, 2014). It burns up to 75% cleaner than fossil fuels (Oniya et al., 2014).
Use of agricultural waste having zero economic value for biofuel production gives a better way of efficiently utilizing agricultural land. Sugarcane molasses, groundnut shells, rice husks, straw, corncobs, etc. are being studied as substrates for biofuel production. Groundnut shells contain high cellulose (37%) and hemicellulose (18.7%) content and also other carbohydrates about 2.5%, which increase the efficiency of fermentation and provide better yield (Jaishankar et al., 2014). The use of agricultural wastes and by-products as feedstock for bioethanol production gives significant environmental advantages, since it intensifies the efficiency of the utilization of the solar energy converted by crop plants without misuse of additional natural resources such as land and water. The choice of feedstock, either plant species or waste material, depends on local conditions and economy. (Watanabe, 2013).
The benefits of bioethanol gel whether universally or to a single country are as follows:
Reduction in Fossil fuel use
Bioethanol gel can improve air quality by plummeting the emission of carbon monoxide (CO) sulfur dioxide and particulates (PM) when used for cooking.
Reduction in the emission of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) carbon dioxide and methane.
The replacement of fossil fuels like kerosene with biofuel can reduce significantly the production of carbon dioxide, and the use of bioethanol gel reduces methane emissions.
Bioethanol gels are less toxic than conventional fossil fuels for cooking, sulfur-free, and are easily biodegradable.
Production from waste
Peanut shell is used to make bioethanol gel in this study, which makes it inexpensive.
Biofuel crops of all types will provide the rural economy with an alternative non-food crop and product market.
Reduction of fuel imports
By producing fuels in the country, imports will be reduced and the security of energy supply will be increased.
No new infrastructure is required for the first- and second-generation liquid biofuels and some of the solid and gaseous biofuels.
Sustainability and renewability
Bioethanol gel is sustainable and renewable, as it are produced from plants and animals. (Scragg, 2009).
Bioethanol (either straight or jellified) can also be used in households for cooking as a substitute of wood, charcoal or kerosene and for lighting as a substitute of kerosene. Beyond its possible use as fuel, bioethanol can be produced for use in beverages and in a variety of industrial applications including cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. As a solvent for the pharmaceutical industry, bioethanol is useful for processing antibiotics, vaccines, tablets, pills, and vitamins. Bioethanol is used as a solvent in the manufacture of many other substances including paints, lacquer, and explosives.
Industrial bioethanol is used as a raw material for the production of vinegar and yeast, and similarly in chemical processing as a chemical intermediate. Even food products like extracts, flavourings, and glazes contain large amounts of alcohol. (Castro, 2007) Biofuels resulting from renewable feedstocks are environmentally friendly fuels. The successful development of bio-based fuel is expected to provide better energy security, benefit local and national economies by contributing to agricultural sectors, and progressively improve the local and global environments, among others. (Khanal, 2010)
Economic Benefits of Biofuels
The successful creation of a bio-based economy has a potential of creating local jobs and improving the rural economy. Various entities likely to benefit from the successful development of biorefinery would be the rural farmers and the co-operatives run by the farmers, industries involved in agricultural equipment, facility design, and fabrication, Bioethanol production and use has spread to every corner of the globe. As anxieties over petroleum supplies and global warming continue to grow, more nations are looking to bioethanol and renewable fuels as a way to counter oil dependency and environmental impacts. Increased production and use of bioethanol have also led to a growing international trade for the renewable fuel. The increased trade of bioethanol around the world is helping to open up new markets for all sources of bioethanol. (Brajpai, 2013)
Cellulosic Hydrolysis, could provide much higher positive energy ratios of 2 to 3 times more energy in the bioethanol produced than energy input. (Castro, 2007) Bioethanol gel has several advantages compared to straight bioethanol: one cannot drink it, it is easier and less dangerous to store, sell and transport, and it is less likely to have fire in the home because if the stove falls the burning gel does not spread. (Castro, 2007).
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