As our world continues to evolve, innovate and move away from conventional fossil-fuel energy sources, new green alternatives are transforming the energy landscape. While wind and solar energy gained early traction in the market, these renewable sources are intermittent and not always available.
However, due to innovative technological advancements and a shift in attitude regarding waste management, the use of biogenic fuels to produce energy has become more prevalent and cost-effective as a viable green energy solution. But what exactly are biogenic fuels and why are they on the rise? Biogenic fuels can be defined broadly as any fuel derived from by living organisms, such as renewable plant and animal biomass.
The evolution of biogenic fuels
While a lot of effort and new technology is being devoted to biogenic fuel development, this energy source is not a new concept. The use of biogenic fuels has been around ever since human beings discovered fire and has since played a role throughout modern history. Did you know that some of the first automobiles models were developed to run entirely on peanut oil? While innovative, this use of organic matter to produce fuel use was quickly cast into the shadows by fossil-fuels, which boasted greater economic and performance benefits.
However, with experimentation, combined with innovation, this renewable energy source continues to evolve as biogenic fuel producers expand upon prior feedstocks, methods of processing this organic material and end-use applications. This constant development has led to a second-generation of biogenic fuels that differ in the overall sustainability of their feedstocks. And the source of that feedstock is important.
With our society’s rapidly increasing population and demand for power, critics argue that use of key biogenic fuel feedstocks for energy production, such as corn and soybean, would threaten food supplies. This delicate balance between energy needs and food demands is a real concern. However, some innovative biogenic fuel producers are getting more creative with how they’re sourcing their feedstock and transforming organic waste material into energy.
Innovative renewable biogenic fuel from organic waste
As a much cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum-based diesel fuel, one form of biogenic fuels in particular – LR100™– has even more potential to reduce waste, carbon impacts and competing food supply concerns. LR100™ is a one-of-a-kind, unique biogenic fuel derived from waste vegetable oil and fats discarded by the food service industry. While at first glance this biogenic fuel is often mistaken for biodiesel, LR100™ is in fact much different in terms of its carbon footprint, composition and how its developed. Because LR100™ is processed mechanically, it has a 10% lower carbon lifecycle than conventional biodiesel, which uses a chemical process. It also performs much better in boilers and heating systems.Once disposed as waste, used vegetable oil and fats discarded by the food service industry have become a viable feedstock for biogenic fuel producers. It’s estimated by the National Renderers Association that about 4.4 billion pounds of cooking oil is collected annually from restaurants and food service providers in the United States and Canada. Fortunately, a vast majority of this former waste stream is now being repurposed as a fuel source. By leveraging existing and recyclable feedstocks that don’t require additional animal or agricultural production, renewable biogenic fuels do not threaten food supplies. Renewable biogenic fuel also delivers other significant benefits, not only for food service establishments, but also for the environment and local communities.
How biogenic fuel from organic waste is helping the environment and local communities
As a cleaner burning fuel, biogenic fuels derived from used cooking oil and fats are providing cities with both a local, sustainable and circular energy solution that yields positive impacts across local communities and for our environment:
Renewable energy source
- Derived from plant and animal products, biogenic fuel is a viable alternative to our dependence on fossil-fuels. Its organic properties make it non-toxic and biodegradable, further reducing the risk of spills and mishandling of the fuel.
- Through renewable biogenic fuel use, we can extend the longevity of our earth’s finite fossil fuel resources, while we continue the transition to other renewable sources.
- Producing renewable energy with this organic food waste significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves local air quality through reductions in nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and particulate emissions, compared to traditional heavy fuel oils.
- If not disposed of properly, used oil can severely damage municipal water and sewage infrastructure. This oil can create blockages and system degradation and/or spoil local water resources.
- If this used oil gets into local waterways, it can negatively impact local wildlife and aquatic habitats, leading to habitat destruction.
- Transforming food waste into renewable fuel offers a closed loop recycling solution for communities and reduces the consumption of finite resources.
- Restaurants are often compensated for their used cooking oil, dependent on market demand and quality. Once regarded as a waste byproduct, the food industry is now incentivized to recycle its used cooking oil, while also benefitting from an additional source of income and/or cost savings.
- Biogenic fuels can often be seamlessly integrated into existing mechanical systems, eliminating the need to replace capital-intensive mechanical equipment that previously used petroleum fuel oil.
Domestic production & job creation
- Increased use of renewable biogenic fuel can help to limit our energy dependence on foreign nations for finite fossil-fuel based resources.
- Leveraging local and organic feedstocks to produce renewable biogenic fuel, generates synergistic opportunities for local food industry businesses and the communities in which these businesses operate, including jobs and environmental benefits.
- According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “A robust bioeconomy will create domestic high-paying jobs while reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and revitalizing rural America,” and create cascading benefits for the transportation, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors.
Although biogenic fuels have existed for thousands of years, the technological advances and environmental demands of today are leading to a resurgence of this type of renewable fuel. While the world’s competing energy needs and sustainability challenges will not be solved with a single renewable fuel source, biogenic fuels are helping to bridge the gap. This circular solution is helping communities adopt better waste management approaches, source renewable energy solutions from their own former waste streams and forge the path forward towards our society’s continued transition to a more sustainable tomorrow.