In a solar economy, sustainably available biomass holds the potential to be an excellent nonfossil source of high energy density transportation fuel. However, if sustainably available biomass cannot supply the liquid fuel need for the entire transport sector, alternatives must be sought. This article reviews biomass to liquid fuel conversion processes that treat biomass primarily as a carbon source and boost liquid fuel production substantially by using supplementary energy that is recovered from solar energy at much higher efficiencies than the biomass itself. The need to develop technologies for an energy-efficient future sustainable transport sector infrastructure that will use different forms of energy, such as electricity, H, and heat, in a synergistic interaction with each other is emphasized. An enabling template for such a future transport infrastructure is presented. An advantage of the use of such a template is that it reduces the land area needed to propel an entire transport sector. Also, some solutions for the transition period that synergistically combine biomass with fossil fuels are briefly discussed.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. 1. Energy Info. Admin. (EIA) 2009. Annual Energy Outlook 2010 Early Release Overview Washington, DC: U.S. Energy Info. Admin http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/index.html [Google Scholar]
  2. Lynd LR, Laser MS, McBride J, Podkaminer K, Hannon J. 2.  2007. Energy myth three—high land requirements and an unfavorable energy balance preclude biomass ethanol from playing a large role in providing energy services. Energy and American Society—Thirteen Myths BK Sovacool, MA Brown 75–102 New York: Springer [Google Scholar]
  3. Goldemberg J. 3.  2007. Ethanol for a sustainable energy future. Science 315:808–10 [Google Scholar]
  4. Lynd LR. 4.  1996. Overview and evaluation of fuel ethanol from cellulosic biomass: technology, economics, the environment, and policy. Annu. Rev. Energy Environ. 21:403–65 [Google Scholar]
  5. Wyman CE. 5.  1999. Biomass ethanol: technical progress, opportunities, and commercial challenges. Annu. Rev. Energy Environ. 24:189–226 [Google Scholar]
  6. Johnston M, Foley JA, Holloway T, Kucharik C, Monfreda C. 6.  2009. Resetting global expectations from agricultural biofuels. Environ. Res. Lett. 4:014004 [Google Scholar]
  7. Greene N, Celik FE, Dale BE, Jackson M, Jayawardhana K. 7.  et al. 2004. Growing energy: how biofuels can help end America's oil dependence. Natl. Resour. Defense Council Report Natl. Resour Defense Council New York: [Google Scholar]
  8. Schubert C. 8.  2006. Can biofuels finally take center stage?. Nat. Biotech. 24:777–84 [Google Scholar]
  9. 9. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Research Council 2009. Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts Washington, DC: National Academies Press300 [Google Scholar]
  10. Perlack RD, Wright LL, Turhollow AF, Graham RL, Stokes BJ, Erbach DC. 10.  2005. Biomass as feedstock for a bioenergy and bioproducts industry: the technical feasibility of a billion-ton annual supply http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf DOE/GO-102995–2135 ORNL/5002–MT/66 [Google Scholar]
  11. Pimentel D, Herz M, Glickstein M, Zimmerman M, Allen R. 11.  et al. 2002. Renewable energy: current and potential issues. BioScience 52:1111–20 [Google Scholar]
  12. Pimentel D, Patzek TW. 12.  2005. Ethanol production using corn, switchgrass, and wood; biodiesel production using soybean and sunflower. Nat. Resour. Res. 14:65–76 [Google Scholar]
  13. Agrawal R, Singh NR, Ribeiro FH, Delgass WN. 13.  2007. Sustainable fuel for the transportation sector. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104:4828–33 [Google Scholar]
  14. Lewis NS, Nocera DG. 14.  2006. Powering the planet: chemical challenges in solar energy utilization. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103:15729–35 [Google Scholar]
  15. Johnson JM-F, Allmaras RR, Reicosky DC. 15.  2006. Estimating source carbon from crop residues, roots and rhizodeposits using the national grain-yield database. Agron. J. 98:622–36 [Google Scholar]
  16. Wilhelm WW, Johnson JMF, Karlen DL, Lightle DT. 16.  2007. Corn stover to sustain soil organic carbon further constrains biomass supply. Agron. J. 99:1665–67 [Google Scholar]
  17. Lynd LR, Laser MS, Bransby D, Dale BE, Davison B. 17.  et al. 2008. How biotech can transform biofuels. Nat. Biotech. 26:169–72 [Google Scholar]
  18. Lange J-P. 18.  2007. Lignocellulose conversion: an introduction to chemistry, process and economics. Biofuels Bioprod. Biorefin. 1:39–48 [Google Scholar]
  19. Heaton E, Voigt T, Long SP. 19.  2004. A quantitative review comparing the yields of two candidate C4 perennial biomass crops in relation to nitrogen, temperature and water. Biomass Bioenergy 27:21–30 [Google Scholar]
  20. Heaton EA, Dohleman FG, Long SP. 20.  2008. Meeting US biofuel goals with less land: the potential of Miscanthus. Global Change Biol. 14:2000–14 [Google Scholar]
  21. Tilman D, Hill J, Lehman C. 21.  2006. Carbon-negative biofuels from low-input high-diversity grassland biomass. Science 314:1598–600 [Google Scholar]
  22. Schmer MR, Vogel KP, Mitchell RB, Perrin RK. 22.  2008. Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105:464–69 [Google Scholar]
  23. Heaton EA, Long SP, Voigt TB, Jones MB, Clifton-Brown J. 23.  2004. Miscanthus for renewable energy generation: European Union experience and projections for Illinois. Mitig. Adapt. Strategies Global Change 9:433–51 [Google Scholar]
  24. Bevan MW, Franssen MCR. 24.  2006. Investing in green and white biotech. Nat. Biotech. 24:765–67 [Google Scholar]
  25. Whitmarsh J. 25. Govindjee 1999. The photosynthetic process. Concepts in Photobiology: Photosynthesis and Photomorphogenesis GS Singhal, G Renger, SK Sopory, K-D Irrgang, Govindjee 11–51 New Delhi: Narosa Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic [Google Scholar]
  26. Zhu X-G, Long SP, Ort DR. 26.  2008. What is the maximum efficiency with which photosynthesis can convert solar energy into biomass?. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 19:153–59 [Google Scholar]
  27. Hall DO, Rao KK. 27.  1999. Photosynthesis West Nyack, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  28. Dismukes GC, Carrieri D, Bennette N, Ananyev GM, Posewitz MC. 28.  2008. Aquatic phototrophs: efficient alternatives to land-based crops for biofuels. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 19:235–40 [Google Scholar]
  29. McCoy M. 29.  2009. Exxon invests in algal biofuels. Chem. Eng. News 87:15 [Google Scholar]
  30. Darzins A. 30.  2009. Algae as a source of feedstocks for biofuels Paper presented at Mississippi State Univ. BioFuels Conf., Jackson, Miss. [Google Scholar]
  31. Singh NR. 31.  2009. High liquid fuel yielding biofuel processes and a roadmap for the future transportation PhD thesis Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.314 [Google Scholar]
  32. Diver RB, Miller JE, Allendorf MD, Siegel NP, Hogan RE. 32.  2008. Solar thermochemical water-splitting ferrite-cycle heat engines. J. Solar Energy Eng. 130:041001 [Google Scholar]
  33. Perkins C, Weimer AW. 33.  2009. Solar-thermal production of renewable hydrogen. AIChE J. 55:286–93 [Google Scholar]
  34. 34. National Research Council 2009. Electricity from Renewable Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments Washington, DC: Natl. Acad. Press300 [Google Scholar]
  35. King RR. 35.  2008. Multijunction cells: record breakers. Nat. Photon. 2:284–86 [Google Scholar]
  36. King RR, Law DC, Edmondson KM, Fetzer CM, Kinsey GS. 36.  et al. 2007. 40% efficient metamorphic GaInP/GaInAs/Ge multijunction solar cells. Appl. Phys. Lett. 90:183516 [Google Scholar]
  37. 37. National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering 2004. The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunites, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs Washington, DC: Natl. Acad. Press [Google Scholar]
  38. 38. National Research Council 2009. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies—A Focus on Hydrogen Washington, DC: Natl. Acad. Press [Google Scholar]
  39. Wright MM, Brown RC. 39.  2007. Comparative economics of biorefineries based on the biochemical and thermochemical platforms. Biofuels Bioprod. Biorefin. 1:49–56 [Google Scholar]
  40. MacLean HL, Lave LB. 40.  2003. Evaluating automobile fuel/propulsion system technologies. Prog. Energy Combust. Sci. 29:1–69 [Google Scholar]
  41. Wang M. 41.  2002. Fuel choices for fuel-cell vehicles: well-to-wheels energy and emission impacts. J. Power Sources 112:307–21 [Google Scholar]
  42. Bossel U. 42.  2006. Does a hydrogen economy make sense?. Proc. IEEE 94:1826–37 [Google Scholar]
  43. Rutkowski MD. 43.  2005. Current central hydrogen production from natural gas without CO2 sequestration version 2.1.1 http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/h2a_prod_studies.html [Google Scholar]
  44. Tarascon JM, Armand M. 44.  2001. Issues and challenges facing rechargeable lithium batteries. Nature 414:359–67 [Google Scholar]
  45. Satyapal S, Petrovic J, Read C, Thomas G, Ordaz G. 45.  2007. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Hydrogen Storage Project: progress towards meeting hydrogen-powered vehicle requirements. Catal. Today 120:246–56 [Google Scholar]
  46. Huber GW, Iborra S, Corma A. 46.  2006. Synthesis of transportation fuels from biomass: chemistry, catalysts, and engineering. Chem. Rev. 106:4044–98 [Google Scholar]
  47. Mohan D, Pittman CU, Steele PH. 47.  2006. Pyrolysis of wood/biomass for bio-oil: a critical review. Energy Fuels 20:848–89 [Google Scholar]
  48. McKendry P. 48.  2002. Energy production from biomass (part 1): overview of biomass. Bioresource Technol. 83:37–46 [Google Scholar]
  49. McKendry P. 49.  2002. Energy production from biomass (part 3): gasification technologies. Bioresour. Technol. 83:55–63 [Google Scholar]
  50. Tijmensen MJA, Faaij APC, Hamelinck CN, van Hardeveld MRM. 50.  2002. Exploration of the possibilities for production of Fischer Tropsch liquids and power via biomass gasification. Biomass Bioenergy 23:129–52 [Google Scholar]
  51. Craig KR, Mann MK. 51.  1996. Cost and performance analysis of biomass-based integrated gasification combined-cycle (BIGCC) power systems. Tech. Rep. NREL/TP-430-21657 Natl. Renew. Energy Lab., Golden, Colo. [Google Scholar]
  52. 52. Nexant Inc 2006. Equipment Design and Cost estimation for Small Modular Biomass Systems, Synthesis Gas Cleanup, and Oxygen Separation Equipment; Task 2: Gas Cleanup Design and Cost Estimates—Black Liquor Gasification. Tech. Rep. NREL/SR-510-39944 Natl. Renew. Energy Lab., Golden, Colo. [Google Scholar]
  53. Li X, Grace JR, Watkinson AP, Lim CJ, Ergudenler A. 53.  2001. Equilibrium modeling of gasification: a free energy minimization approach and its application to a circulating fluidized bed coal gasifier. Fuel 80:195–207 [Google Scholar]
  54. Hamelinck CN, Faaij APC, den Uil H, Boerrigter H. 54.  2004. Production of FT transportation fuels from biomass; technical options, process analysis and optimisation, and development potential. Energy 29:1743–71 [Google Scholar]
  55. Leckel D. 55.  2009. Diesel production from Fischer-Tropsch: the past, the present, and new concepts. Energy Fuels 23:2342–58 [Google Scholar]
  56. Prins MJ, Ptasinski KJ. 56.  2005. Energy and exergy analyses of the oxidation and gasification of carbon. Energy 30:982–1002 [Google Scholar]
  57. Prins MJ, Ptasinski KJ, Janssen FJJG. 57.  2005. Exergetic optimisation of a production process of Fischer-Tropsch fuels from biomass. Fuel Process. Technol. 86:375–89 [Google Scholar]
  58. Ragauskas AJ, Williams CK, Davison BH, Britovsek G, Cairney J. 58.  et al. 2006. The path forward for biofuels and biomaterials. Science 311:484–89 [Google Scholar]
  59. Li H, Cann FC, Liao JC. 59.  2010. Biofuels: biomolecular engineering fundamentals and advances. Annu. Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng. 1:19–36 [Google Scholar]
  60. Lynd LR, Cushman JH, Nichols RJ, Wyman CE. 60.  1991. Fuel ethanol from cellulosic biomass. Science 251:1318–23 [Google Scholar]
  61. Roman-Leshkov Y, Barrett CJ, Liu ZY, Dumesic JA. 61.  2007. Production of dimethylfuran for liquid fuels from biomass-derived carbohydrates. Nature 447:982–85 [Google Scholar]
  62. Kunkes EL, Simonetti DA, West RM, Serrano-Ruiz JC, Gartner CA, Dumesic JA. 62.  2008. Catalytic conversion of biomass to monofunctional hydrocarbons and targeted liquid-fuel classes. Science 322:417–21 [Google Scholar]
  63. Serrano-Ruiz JC, West RM, Dumesic JA. 63.  2010. Catalytic conversion of renewable biomass resources to fuels and chemicals. Annu. Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng. 1:79–100 [Google Scholar]
  64. Bridgwater AV, Peacocke GVC. 64.  2000. Fast pyrolysis processes for biomass. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 4:1–73 [Google Scholar]
  65. Ringer M, Putsche V, Scahill J. 65.  2006. Large scale pyrolysis oil production: a technology assessment and economic analysis. Tech. Rep. NREL/TP-510-37779 Natl. Renew. Energy Lab., Golden, Colo. [Google Scholar]
  66. Jones SB, Valkenburg C, Walton CW, Elliott DC, Holladay JE. 66.  et al. 2009. Production of gasoline and diesel from biomass via fast pyrolysis, hydrotreating and hydrocracking: a design case. Tech Rep. PNNL-18284 Rev. 1, Pac. Northwest Natl. Lab., Richland, Wash [Google Scholar]
  67. Vadas P, Barnett K, Undersander D. 67.  2008. Economics and energy of ethanol production from alfalfa, corn, and switchgrass in the Upper Midwest, USA. BioEnergy Res. 1:44–55 [Google Scholar]
  68. Bridgwater AV. 68.  2003. Renewable fuels and chemicals by thermal processing of biomass. Chem. Eng. J. 91:87–102 [Google Scholar]
  69. Czernik S, Bridgwater AV. 69.  2004. Overview of applications of biomass fast pyrolysis oil. Energy Fuels 18:590–8 [Google Scholar]
  70. Elliott DC. 70.  2007. Historical developments in hydroprocessing bio-oils. Energy Fuels 21:1792–815 [Google Scholar]
  71. Baker EG, Elliott DC. 71.  1988. Catalytic upgrading of biomass pyrolysis oils. Res. Thermochem. Biomass Convers.883–95 [Google Scholar]
  72. Elliott DC, Neuenschwander GG. 72.  1996. Liquid fuel by low-severity hydrotreating of biocrude. Developments in Thermochemical Biomass Conversion AV Bridgwater, DGB Boocock 611–21 London: Blackie Academic and Professional [Google Scholar]
  73. Furimsky E. 73.  2000. Catalytic hydrodeoxygenation. Appl. Catal. A 199:147–90 [Google Scholar]
  74. Elliott DC, Hart TR. 74.  2008. Catalytic hydroprocessing of chemical models for bio-oil. Energy Fuels 23:631–37 [Google Scholar]
  75. Singh NR, Delgass WN, Ribeiro FH, Agrawal R. 75.  2010. Estimation of liquid fuel yields from biomass. Environ. Sci. Technol. In press [Google Scholar]
  76. Shinnar R, Citro F. 76.  2006. A road map to U.S. decarbonization. Science 313:1243–44 [Google Scholar]
  77. Bossel U, Eliasson B, Taylor G. 77.  2005. The Future of the Hydrogen Economy: Bright or Bleak?. European Fuel Cell Forum http://www.efcf.com/reports/E08.pdf [Google Scholar]
  78. Agrawal R, Singh NR. 78.  2009. Synergistic routes to liquid fuel for a petroleum deprived future. AIChE J. 55:1898–905 [Google Scholar]
  79. Gercel HF, Putun AE, Putun E. 79.  2002. Hydropyrolysis of extracted Euphorbia rigida in a well-swept fixed-bed tubular reactor. Energy Sources 24:423–30 [Google Scholar]
  80. Pütün AE, Kockar OM, Yorgun S, Gercel HF, Andresen J. 80.  et al. 1996. Fixed-bed pyrolysis and hydropyrolysis of sunflower bagasse: product yields and compositions. Fuel Process. Technol. 46:49–62 [Google Scholar]
  81. Pütün AE, Gercel HF, Kockar OM, Ege O, Snape CE, Pütün E. 81.  1996. Oil production from an arid-land plant: fixed-bed pyrolysis and hydropyrolysis of Euphorbia rigida. Fuel 75:1307–12 [Google Scholar]
  82. Dilcio Rocha J, Luengo CA, Snape CE. 82.  1999. The scope for generating bio-oils with relatively low oxygen contents via hydropyrolysis—a versatile technique for solid fuel liquefaction, sulphur speciation and biomarker release. Org. Geochem. 30:1527–34 [Google Scholar]
  83. Rocha JD, Brown SD, Love GD, Snape CE. 83.  1997. Hydropyrolysis: a versatile technique for solid fuel liquefaction, sulphur speciation and biomarker release. J. Anal. Appl. Pyrolysis 40–41:91–103 [Google Scholar]
  84. Pindoria RV, Megaritis A, Herod AA, Kandiyoti R. 84.  1998. A two-stage fixed-bed reactor for direct hydrotreatment of volatiles from the hydropyrolysis of biomass: effect of catalyst temperature, pressure and catalyst ageing time on product characteristics. Fuel 77:1715–26 [Google Scholar]
  85. Pindoria RV, Lim J-Y, Hawkes JE, Lazaro M-J, Herod AA, Kandiyoti R. 85.  1997. Structural characterization of biomass pyrolysis tars/oils from eucalyptus wood waste: effect of H2 pressure and sample configuration. Fuel 76:1013–23 [Google Scholar]
  86. Pindoria RV, Chatzakis IN, Lim JY, Herod AA, Dugwell DR, Kandiyoti R. 86.  1999. Hydropyrolysis of sugar cane bagasse: effect of sample configuration on bio-oil yields and structures from two bench-scale reactors. Fuel 78:55–63 [Google Scholar]
  87. Peterson AA, Vogel F, Lachance RP, Froling M, Antal MJ. 87.  et al. 2008. Thermochemical biofuel production in hydrothermal media: a review of sub- and supercritical water technologies. Energy Environ. Sci. 1:32–65 [Google Scholar]
  88. Gregg DW, Taylor RW, Campbell JH, Taylor JR, Cotton A. 88.  1980. Solar gasification of coal, activated carbon, coke and coal and biomass mixtures. Sol. Energy 25:353–64 [Google Scholar]
  89. Murray JP, Fletcher EA. 89.  1994. Reaction of steam with cellulose in a fluidized bed using concentrated sunlight. Energy 19:1083–98 [Google Scholar]
  90. Adinberg R, Epstein M, Karni J. 90.  2004. Solar gasification of biomass: a molten salt pyrolysis study. J. Sol. Energy Eng. 126:850–57 [Google Scholar]
  91. Melchior T, Perkins C, Lichty P, Weimer AW, Steinfeld A. 91.  2009. Solar-driven biochar gasification in a particle-flow reactor. Chem. Eng. Process. 48:1279–87 [Google Scholar]
  92. Hertwich EG, Zhang X. 92.  2009. Concentrating-solar biomass gasification process for a third generation biofuel. Environ. Sci. Technol. 43:4207–12 [Google Scholar]
  93. Antal MJ, Hofmann L, Moreira JR, Brown CT, Steenblik R. 93.  1983. Design and operation of a solar fired biomass flash pyrolysis reactor. Sol. Energy 30:299–312 [Google Scholar]
  94. Agrawal R, Singh NR, Ribeiro FH, Delgass WN, Perkis DF, Tyner WE. 94.  2009. Synergy in the hybrid thermochemical-biological processes for liquid fuel production. Comput. Chem. Eng. 33:2012–17 [Google Scholar]
  95. Agrawal R, Singh NR, Ribeiro FH, Delgass WN, Perkis DF, Tyner WE. 95.  2008. Environmentally friendly energy solutions. Proc. Found. Comput-Aided Process Oper., 5th, Cambridge, MA109–113 Austin, TX: Comput. Aids Chem. Eng. Edu. [Google Scholar]
  96. Forsberg CW.96.  2009. Meeting U.S. liquid transport fuel needs with a nuclear hydrogen biomass system. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy 34:4227–36 [Google Scholar]
  97. Forsberg CW. 97.  2009. Sustainability by combining nuclear, fossil, and renewable energy sources. Prog. Nucl. Energy 51:192–200 [Google Scholar]
  98. Hill J, Nelson E, Tilman D, Polasky S, Tiffany D. 98.  2006. Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103:11206–10 [Google Scholar]
  99. 99. Earth System Research Laboratory Global Monitoring Division 2009. Trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide. http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
  100. Zeman FS, Keith DW. 100.  2008. Carbon neutral hydrocarbons. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London Ser. A 366:3901–18 [Google Scholar]
  101. Zeman F. 101.  2007. Energy and material balance of CO2 capture from ambient air. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41:7558–63 [Google Scholar]
  102. Zeman F. 102.  2008. Experimental results for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. AIChE J. 54:1396–99 [Google Scholar]
  103. Baciocchi R, Storti G, Mazzotti M. 103.  2006. Process design and energy requirements for the capture of carbon dioxide from air. Chem. Eng. Process. 45:1047–58 [Google Scholar]
  104. Keith D, Ha-Duong M, Stolaroff J. 104.  2006. Climate strategy with CO2 capture from the air. Clim. Change 74:17–45 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error