Biofuels: what are they and what are their advantages?

The biofuels are known to all non – fossil organic material and biological origin. In general, they are produced from one or more types of agricultural products such as sugarcane, corn , castor beans, among others.

These fuels are considered an alternative and clean energy source, as they have a renewable character and have low levels of emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere. They are used for energy generation by burning biomass or its derivatives. Some examples are ethanol, ethanol, biomass , biogas or biodiesel.

Despite what appears, the conversion of organic matter into biofuel is a practice that has been going on since man discovered fire and used the burning of wood (biomass) as fuel. In recent years, the advancement of technology and research on new energy sources associated, mainly, with the environmental appeal, made possible the popularization of this type of energy source in the market.

Furthermore, with the constant increase in the price of oil, it was necessary to find more economical fuel solutions for the consumer’s pocket. Today, biofuel production is carried out on a large scale and there is still great potential for growth.

See here everything about Biomass .


According to directive no. 2003/30/CE of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union and Decree-Law no. 62/2006, of 21 March, ten types of biofuels are considered. Are they:


Also known as ethanol, bioethanol is one of the most widely used biofuels on the market today. Its manufacture is made from the processing of biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste for use as biofuel.

In Brazil, the largest producer of this type of fuel in the world, the main input for ethanol production is sugarcane, but in other countries, it can also be made from other raw materials, such as corn and the cellulose. Bioethanol is highly used as an automotive fuel in hydrated form, being used as a substitute for gasoline.


Unlike ethanol, which is used for cars and light engine equipment, biodiesel is used in heavier car engines such as trucks and buses. It is produced from the chemical reaction of lipids, oils or fats of animal origin, thus being considered a renewable energy source with low levels of atmospheric pollution. Biodiesel is used as a replacement alternative for common diesel that is produced from petroleum.

See everything about Renewable Energy here .


Biogas is obtained from the anaerobic fermentation process (absence of air) produced through the biological decomposition of organic waste. It is easily found in landfills and dumps where organic waste decomposes, which releases leachate, a liquid rich in methane gas (CH4). Because of this, it is considered a clean and renewable source of energy, as it regenerates through human intervention.


Biomethanol is a biofuel produced from the dry distillation of wood or other plant materials such as grain, cattle waste, vegetable oil or even urban waste. Its appearance is liquid and flammable, it has an invisible flame, melting at about -98 °C. It can have different uses as solvent, preparation of cholesterol, hormones and vitamins, extraction of animal and vegetable products, etc.


Dimethyl ether made from biomass for use as biofuel.


ETBE is produced from bioethanol, the percentage by volume of bio-ETBE being considered as biofuel equivalent to 47%. MTBE is a fuel produced based on biomethanol, with a percentage by volume of bio-MTBE considered as a biofuel of 36%.


They are synthetic hydrocarbons or mixtures of synthetic hydrocarbons produced from organic biomass.


Biohydrogen is developed through biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste, to be used as a biofuel.


Vegetable oil is the fat removed from oil plants, mostly (almost exclusively) from the seeds, by a chemical or physical process.


The use of biofuels has several advantages. One of the main ones is the significant reduction in the emission of polluting gases and the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere, since they are produced from plants, the cultivation helps to sequester the CO 2 emitted in their burning and processing.

Another advantage is the fact that they are a renewable energy source, since it is possible to obtain regeneration through human intervention, unlike fossil fuels that depend on numerous factors and take thousands of years to form.

In addition, the importance of biofuels for sustainable development is fundamental, as there is also the fact that they are important for the generation of jobs and for reducing energy dependence on fossil fuels.

See here everything about Global Warming and Carbon Dioxide – C O 2 .


Zero generation: defined by the application of low or no technology for the production of biofuels that are mainly derived from extractive raw materials, such as firewood and charcoal.

  • First generation: Characterized by low technological complexity in the generation of biofuels produced mainly from cultivated raw materials. Such as Bioethanol (corn, sugar cane, beetroot and wheat) and Biodiesel (soybean, sunflower and rapeseed).
  • Second generation: defined by biofuels that demand a high technological complexity to obtain and are obtained through resources not intended for food, such as bioethanol derived from the hydrolysis of lignocellulose from sugarcane residues or other cellular materials.
  • Third generation: It is defined by the high speed of production of biofuels that demand a high content of oil and carbohydrates, adaptation to a wide spectrum of temperature and acidity of the environment, ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, and greater photosynthetic efficiency, such as, for example , oleaginous microalgae biodiesel.


With a production of around 18 million tons per year, Brazil is the second largest producer of biofuels in the world, losing only to the USA, which produces around 31 million tons per year. In addition, the country is one of the leaders in research into alternative sources for the production of alcohol as a form of fuel and, therefore, leads the ranking in the production of ethanol obtained from sugarcane.

According to the International Energy Agency, there are perspectives that the production of ethanol will increase around 200% by the year 2050, since, today, its amount is approximately 21.5 million barrels of ethanol per year. This is a fact that would make Brazil an international reference among countries seeking to develop renewable energy sources as strategic alternatives to oil.

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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