Turning beer into biofuel: researchers examine alcohol by-products as a source of alternative energy
August 28, 2007 The debate surrounding the benefits and perils of biofuels continues with by-products from the alcohol manufacturing process offered as the latest solution in the search for alternatives to fossil fuel. A proposal for a new research project to be completed at the University of Abertay Dundee in the UK has outlined a concept for cars to run on residues from beer and whisky production.
Researchers from Abertay’s School of Contemporary Sciences will spend the next 12 months investigating how residues from brewing and distilling grain alcohol can be converted into bioethanol.
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The use of waste from alcohol production would prove much more environmentally sound than land-intensive crops currently being grown for conversion to biofuels. Additionally, bioethanol is CO2 neutral and produces 65% less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.
Leading the project is Professor Graeme Walker who believes that methods used by leading biofuel producers, the US and Brazil, are questionable due to their reliance on land for growing crops.
“In countries like Brazil this may also threaten tropical forests and perhaps cancel out any benefits from using biofuels,” said Prof. Walker.
Whilst current methods of producing biofuels were a step in the right direction away from reliance on oil resources, it seems that second generation fuels that utilize waste will be a better all round option. However, according to Prof. Walker, “many technical challenges remain to converting waste biomass into fuel.”
The results of the research project at University of Abertay Dundee could mark a vital turning point in the predicted peak oil crisis.