California named top biofuels state

Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

California, which has long been considered a hub of innovation in the biofuels industry, has this week been named as the US’ ‘top biofuel state’. Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national green business policy organisation, credits the state’s Bay Area in its recent analysis into the nation’s biofuel industry. According to its research, California is the home state of almost 30 large advanced biofuel companies. These organisations are leading the global alternative energy industry – as well as setting an example for the rest of the country. The analysis concludes that dozens of states across the country were starting to take note of both the enviornmental and the financial benefits of this rapidly growing industry.

The group announced that there are now in excess of 80 advanced biofuel organisations, refineries and other indstury companies in the US, which are spread out over 27 states in various corners of the country. Setting an example for other states in the country California won the poll by a significant margin. Second place Illinois houses eight biofuel companies, while Colorado, Texas and Iowa have six, five and four respectively. The Bay Area in California is a hotspot for energy companies and rife with innovation from energy providers. A large proportion of California’s biofuel companies are based in this area, which has a global reputation for being at the centre of alternative energy production and development. Particular areas of expertise for these firms includes renewable diesel, aviation fuels and ethanol research and production. Other states are, too, developing central hubs, housing within them a high concentration of biofuel firms; Illinois, for example, counts Chicago as its biofuel centre. Environmental Entrepreneurs’ report estimates that the alternative energy market will be worth more than $60 billion (€45 billion) within the next 10 years.

The company expects that a further 26 major biofuels companies will launch within the next two years, creating around 18,000 jobs for experts within the industry. Biofuel production will increase dramatically The largest biofuel plant currently sits in Colorado. The Gevo Development facility is capable of producing more than 350 million gallons of butanol every year. It hopes to extend this further within the next few years. The report stated that biofuel production in the US and Canada increased by around 30% between 2011 and 2012 – from the production of 427 million gallons to 685 million gallons. The prediction is that by 2015, this will have increased five fold to around 2.6 billion gallons. Increased pressure on existing feedstocks Another recent report into the growth of the biofuels industry stated that demand for business will be trebled by 2030. The study, ‘Finding Feedstocks for the Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals of Today and 2030,’ by Lux Research, said that this would create considerable pressure on available resources.

Today, the industry requires around 1 billion tonnes of biomass every year to replace around 3% of the world’s petroleum products. This requirement will increase almost four fold by 2030, the report warned. This increased demand will place massive pressures on available biomass, which often require huge amounts of products such as sugars and waste feedstocks. Lux’s research analyst, Kalib Kersch, advised that there are many innovations in the industry that will help cope with this demand. Innovations from organisations in the feedstock department include crop modification, new value chain configurations and agronomical technology improvements (for example, irrigations and biosensors); these are being tipped as the way forward in meeting an exponentially growing demand. The Lux report also found there to be other potential feedstocks, such as municipal solid waste, carbon dioxide and flue gas.

More work to meet demand It is clear from these recent reports in the industry that a lot of work needs to be done in order to meet the expected demand in the industry. Many universities are undertaking research programmes that will determine ways to modify crops in order to decrease agriculture’s material inputs. Many of these universities are aptly located in California. It is hoped that by taking note of California’s advancement in the field of biofuels, The US will be able to keep up with this sky-rocketing expected increase in demand; as universities fight over themselves to develop new feedstocks, it looks like the country is well on its way.