Biowastes to Biofuels


Due to the growing human population and urbanization, the quantity of solid waste has steadily increased over the past few years. Manufacturing processes, industries, and municipal solid waste (MSW) all produce waste materials. Technologies known as waste-to-energy (WTE) turn waste into a variety of fuels that can be used to generate energy. Waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies have the potential to generate renewable energy from a variety of waste materials, including municipal solid waste (MSW), industrial waste, agricultural waste, and waste by-products. Organic waste can be converted into synthetic fuels in four main ways: 1) pyrolysis, 2) gasification, 3) bioconversion, and 4) hydrogenation.


Squander materials which emerge in relationship with different human exercises is a significant danger to the manageable use of normal assets – air, water, soil, and regular landscape. The term “waste” connotes that the material is unused and undesirable, and these wastes typically have a solid form. However, if properly managed, many of these waste materials can be repurposed into resources for industrial production or energy generation.

Technologies known as waste-to-energy (WTE) turn waste into a variety of fuels that can be used to generate energy. Worldwide, approximately 140 million tons are processed annually by nearly 780 WTE facilities.

Waste that has been treated and pressed into solid fuel, waste that has been transformed into biogas or syngas, or waste that has been incinerated can all be used to produce heat and steam. Waste-to-fuel technologies are WTE technologies that produce fuels. Biogas (methane and CO2), syngas (hydrogen and CO), liquid biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), and pure hydrogen can all be produced using advanced WTE technologies. After that, these fuels can be made into electricity. Physical, thermal, and biological approaches make up the majority of WTE technologies.

The use of fuels made from biowaste has a significant positive impact on the environment. During its growth, biomass takes in CO2 and releases it during combustion. As a result, biomass has no effect on the greenhouse effect and helps the atmosphere recycle CO2. During its growth, biomass releases the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as it emits during combustion. Furthermore, by and large CO2 outflows can be decreased in light of the fact that biomass is a CO2-impartial fuel.


Solid, liquid, or gaseous fuels primarily made from biomass are referred to as biofuels or bio renewable fuels. Due to their positive effects on the environment, liquid and gaseous biofuels have recently gained popularity. Biofuels are fuels made from renewable resources that don’t pollute, are easy to find locally, last a long time, and are dependable. It has been determined that producing electricity using biofuels is a method that holds promise for the near future. With its high energy conversion efficiencies, biomass integrated gasification/gas turbine technology is the way forward for the generation of electricity from biomass.

Biofuels are regarded as relevant technologies by both developing and industrialized nations for a number of reasons. They include concerns about the environment, savings on foreign exchange, energy security, and socioeconomic issues pertaining to the rural areas of all nations. Numerous studies have examined the economic and environmental effects of biofuels, particularly bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas, and biohydrogen, in recent years.

There is a lot of interest in the biofuel industry’s potential as a source of income and large new markets for small and rural farmers. Developing nations looking for trade and economic growth are particularly interested in the rising global demand for biofuel. Due to the greater availability of land, favorable climatic conditions for agriculture, and lower labor costs, developing nations have a comparative advantage in the production of biofuels. However, the potential for developing nations to benefit from the increased global demand for biofuel may be affected by additional socioeconomic and environmental factors. The production of biofuels on a large scale gives some developing nations the chance to lessen their reliance on oil imports. Modern technologies and effective bioenergy conversion with a variety of biofuels, which are becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels, are becoming increasingly popular in industrialized nations.

Based on how they are made, biofuels can be divided into the following categories: biofuels of the first generation (FGBs); biofuels of the second generation (SGBs); biofuels of the third generation (TGBs); and biofuels of the fourth generation. The term “FGBs” refers to conventionally produced biofuels made from sugar, starch, vegetable oils, or animal fats. Seeds or grains, such as wheat, which yields starch that is fermented into bioethanol and sunflower seeds, which are pressed to produce vegetable oil that can be used in biodiesel, frequently serve as the fundamental feedstocks for the production of first-generation biofuels. Advanced biofuels are another name for biofuels of the second and third generations. SGBs made with cutting-edge technology from non-food crops like wheat straw, corn, wood, and energy crops. An algae-derived biofuel is referred to as algae fuel, oilgae fuel, or third generation biofuel. Algae can be used to make biofuels with more advanced technology because they are low-input, high-yield feedstocks that produce 30 times more energy per acre than land. However, the most recent fourth generation is based on the use of the most cutting-edge technology to transform vegetable oil and biodiesel into bio gasoline.

Classification of biofuels according to how they are made :-

Generation Feedstock Example
First generation biofuels Sugar, starch, vegetable oils, or animal fats Bio alcohols, Vegetable oil, biodiesel, bio-syngas, biogas.
Second generation biofuels Non-food crops, wheat straw, corn, wood, solid waste, energy crop Bio alcohols, bio-oil, bio-dmf, biohydrogen, bio-Fischer-tropsch diesel
Third generation biofuels Algae Vegetable oil, biodiesel
Fourth generation biofuels Vegetable oil, biodiesel Bio gasoline



The following categories of liquid biofuels are being considered worldwide: a) biocrude and bio-synthetic oils, b) bio alcohols, and c) vegetable oils and biodiesels.


Through a chemical process known as transesterification, vegetable oils, animal fats, and grease are transformed into biodiesel fuels. Biodiesel is an alternative liquid fuel that is better for the environment and can be used in any diesel engine without changing anything. In the early 1990s, widespread production of biodiesel began, and production has steadily increased ever since. A biodiesel blend can be made by blending biodiesel with petroleum diesel at any level. Unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulphates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and particulate matter are significantly reduced when biodiesel is used in a conventional diesel engine.

Bio alcohols

The alcohol molecule contains one or more oxygen atoms, which contribute to the combustion heat and oxygenate the fuel. Any of the alcohol-related organic molecules can effectively be utilized as a fuel. Bioethanol (C2H5OH), biomethanol (CH3OH), propanol (C3H7OH), and biobutanol (C4H9OH) are the alcohols that can be used as motor fuel. Notwithstanding, just bioethanol and bio methanol fills are actually and monetarily appropriate for gas powered motors.


In terms of transportation fuel, bioethanol is by far the most widely used. Nearly 47% of all bioethanol produced worldwide is produced in the United States, making it the world’s largest producer of bioethanol fuel. Bioethanol can be utilized directly in ethanol-powered automobiles or blended with gasoline to produce “gasohol.” Blending bioethanol with gasoline requires anhydrous bioethanol. Typically, there is no need to modify the engine to use the blend. Because it contains 35% oxygen, bioethanol is an oxygenated fuel that reduces the amount of NOx and particulate matter released during combustion. Compared to gasoline, bioethanol has a higher vaporization heat, higher flame speeds, and a higher octane number (108).

Bio methanol

Methanol is basically created from petroleum gas, however biomass can likewise be gasified to methanol (bio methanol). Syngas, which consists primarily of H2 and CO, is produced through gasification. Syngas has the potential to produce a wide range of commercial fuels and chemicals, such as synthetic diesel, methanol and lower-carbon alcohols, acetic acid, dimethyl ether, and other similar compounds. Bio methanol can be made with any sustainable asset containing carbon like kelp, squander wood and trash.


Despite the fact that bioethanol is currently the most popular option for replacing gasoline as a transportation fuel, biobutanol has recently gained popularity. Due to its higher energy content and superior air-to-fuel ratio, biobutanol is considered superior to bioethanol in terms of its fuel properties. Biobutanol is safer to handle because it is less volatile and explosive than bioethanol, has a higher flash point, and has a lower vapor pressure. Isobutanol, a branched isomer of straight chain butanol, can be blended with gasoline up to 15% by volume, whereas ethanol can only be blended with 10% by volume. However, butanol’s octane value is lower than that of ethanol and is comparable to that of gasoline. As a result, butanol cannot be used to boost octane. Butanol’s toxicity appears to be its main drawback.

Dimethyl ether

Due to its ease of transportation and cleanliness, dimethyl ether (DME) has recently gained a lot of attention as an alternative fuel. At room temperature, DME can be stored as a liquid at pressures ranging from 5 to 10 bars. DME is easy to ignite through compression thanks to its high cetane number. DME is best suited for diesel engines due to its high cetane rating, which indicates that the diesel engine’s high efficiency is maintained when DME is utilized. DME has a lower energy content than diesel. DME is capable of being effectively transformed into other oxygenates, lower olefins, gasoline-range hydrocarbons, and more. It can be used as a fuel additive or directly as a fuel for transportation when mixed with methanol. Specifically, dimethyl ether is taking care of business as a super perfect elective fuel for diesel motors. Because DME has a poor lubricating character and a viscosity that is only about 1/30 that of diesel fuel, it is necessary to either apply special treatment to the surface of the matching parts of the fuel injection system or add a certain amount of lubricant to DME in order to prevent their abnormal wear. Low combustion noise and decreased CO, NOx, and hydrocarbon emissions are DME’s advantages over conventional diesel; and the anticipated decrease in the potential for global warming over a 500-year time span.


Bio-oil is a renewable liquid fuel that is made by quickly pyrolyzing biomass. It has a heating value of about 16 MJ/kg, compared to diesel’s 43 MJ/kg. The direct thermal decomposition of the organic matrix in the absence of oxygen during pyrolysis of biomass yields a variety of solid, liquid, and gas products. The pyrolysis process is thought to have a lot of potential as a way to turn biomass into chemicals and fuels with more value. The liquid and gas products can be used to generate power in engines and turbines. Depending on the operating conditions, pyrolysis processes are typically categorized as carbonization (very slow), conventional (slow), fast, or flash.


Biogas, landfill gas, gaseous fuels from biomass pyrolysis and gasification, gaseous fuels from Fischer–Tropsch synthesis, and biohydrogen are the primary bio renewable gaseous fuels.


Biogas, a clean and renewable energy source, has the potential to replace conventional energy sources like oil, fossil fuels, and so on, particularly in rural areas. which are depleting at a faster rate and causing ecological and environmental issues. Biogas is primarily composed of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), with very few sulfuric components (H2S) present. Biogas typically contains between 55 and 70 percent CH4, 30 and 45 percent CO2, 0 and 2 percent nitrogen, and less than 500 parts per million of hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Methane is the most important of the biogas’s components, especially for the combustion process in automobile engines. If released into the atmosphere, methane is not only a harmful greenhouse gas but also a valuable renewable energy source. Between 4800 and 6700 kcal/m3, manure produces methane gas. Compared to pure methane, its energy content is 8900 kcal/m3.

Biohydrogen produced through anaerobic fermentation

Biotechnology for the production of hydrogen has received widespread attention worldwide as an environmentally friendly method. Since the 1980s, researchers have been looking into how anaerobic bacteria can produce hydrogen. One such renewable source for the production of H2 is the anaerobic digestion of solid organic waste, such as wastewater sludge and waste from agriculture and municipalities. However, this process’s limitations include the low hydrogen yields currently realized from fermentation of even the simplest sugars, one of which prevents continuous H2 production. Using carbohydrate-rich, non-toxic raw materials, anaerobic and photosynthetic microorganisms can produce biohydrogen. Hydrogen is produced as a byproduct of the conversion of organic waste into organic acids under anaerobic conditions, which are then used to generate methane.

Landfill gas

It is known that both managed “landfill” and “open dump” sites produce landfill gas (LFG). The primary components of LFG are by-products of the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials, typically household waste, by naturally occurring bacteria. Although methane (50–60%) and carbon dioxide (40%) make up the majority of LFG, numerous trace amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also released. The components of landfill gases vary greatly due to the wide range of contents found in landfill sites. These gases are a greenhouse gas, kill surface vegetation, and can cause unpleasant odours. If they are not removed from the gas prior to use, some of these compounds may damage engines or cause corrosion.


The term “waste” connotes that the material is unused and undesirable, and waste materials are typically solid. However, if properly managed, many of these waste materials can be repurposed into resources for industrial production or energy generation. Waste-to-fuel technologies are WTE technologies that produce fuels. Biogas (methane and CO2), syngas (hydrogen and CO), liquid biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), and pure hydrogen can all be produced using advanced WTE technologies. After that, these fuels can be made into electricity.

Wood, short-rotation woody crops, agricultural waste, short-rotation herbaceous crops, animal waste, and a slew of other materials are potential biowaste fuel sources. Biomass can be considered as the most ideal choice and has the biggest potential, which meets these necessities and could safeguard fuel supply from now on. The use of fuels made from biowaste has a significant positive impact on the environment.

The organic, inorganic, energy content, and physical properties of biowaste differ significantly from those of coal. Biowaste typically has a lower heating value, a higher moisture content, and lower density and friability than coal. It also typically contains more oxygen, more silica and potassium, and less aluminium and iron.

Despite the biowaste’s highly variable properties, using biowaste as the sole fuel source was primarily to blame for the limitations. Biowaste fuels’ high moisture and ash content can cause ignition and combustion issues. Biomass with a high moisture content is better suited for a wet conversion process like fermentation, which involves biochemically mediated reactions, while biomass with a low moisture content is better suited for conversion processes like combustion, pyrolysis, or gasification.


– Anisha Sethi