Course Summary & Description:
This course covers the benefits and production of biomass oils, as well as further research recommendations. The recent surge of worldwide consumption of petroleum-derived products in the 21st century, especially from fast-growing markets like India and China, have created an urgency to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The importance is spurred by economical reasons, namely, high oil prices, and the fact that petroleum is a non-renewable product with limited availability.
Biomass oils are a viable alternative to petroleum. They have the potential to displace up to 10 billion gallons of petroleum by 2030 if incentives and mandates are used to promote fuels and bio-based products. They can be used directly as boiler fuels, or processed into biodiesel and “bio-distillates” via refinery technology. Under current technology, the oleochemical industry has commercialized biomass oil biorefineries. This mature industry consumes 2.6 billion pounds of biomass oil and produces nearly 4 billion pounds of bio-based products, chemicals, fuel additives, and biodiesel annually. Methyl esters (a.k.a. biodiesel) and glycerin are two products used in existing oleochemical production, which results in the creation of coproducts which generate profits, increase returns to equity, and generally attract investment in biobased product expansion.
This course will detail the challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Energy in spurring the creation of a domestic bioindustry. Success in this regard will dramatically reduce dependence on foreign oil and possibly bring it to an end. These outcomes can be achieved by concentrating investments in research platforms that show the highest likelihood of success and/or the largest impact in the field.