An evaluation of optimal biofuels

An Evaluation of Optimal Biofuels in a Northern European Context

Researcher:  Thanasit Thamsiriroj, under supervision of Dr Jerry D Murphy

Telephone:  021 490 1983

Project Description

Funding body:  Higher Education Authority
Programme:  HEA PRTLI Cycle 4
Project type:  PhD
Period:  October 2007-October 2010

It has been shown by this research group that biofuel generated from grass in the form of biomethane requires four times less land than biodiesel from rapeseed to produce the same gross energy. Furthermore grass is a low energy input crop (doesn’t require annual ploughing), which sequesters carbon into the soil (grass is a carbon negative crop). It is suggested that biomethane from grass has the potential to be the optimal indigenous biofuel in Ireland.
However preliminary work by this group suggests that palm oil from tropical countries, such as Thailand, offers great advantages over indigenous liquid biofuels. Yields of 4,000 l/ha/a may be compared with 1,200 l/ha/a for rapeseed oil. Palm oil is a low energy input crop offering yield every year rather than the one year in five from the high energy input crop rapeseed. Furthermore, palm oil systems in Thailand utilise palm oil residues to provide all parasitic energy demands of the system; fossil fuels are not combusted to make a renewable biofuel. This is not the case in producing biodiesel from rapeseed oil in Ireland.
This work will be in the form of a series of papers investigating the merits or otherwise of a selection of biofuel systems analysed from technical, economic and environmental perspectives.

Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork