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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Second‐generation biofuels: why they are taking so long

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There has been a significant degree of hype regarding the commercial potential of second‐generation biofuels (2GBs; biofuels sourced from lignocellulosic materials). In 2007, ambitious targets for the mass substitution of fossil‐fuel‐derived transport fuels by 2GBs were put forward in the United States and similar targets exist for other countries. However, as of May 2012, no commercial‐scale 2GB facilities are currently operating. The technical and financial obstacles that have delayed the deployment of these facilities are discussed, as are recent advancements in research that may help to overcome some of these. There are six commercial‐scale facilities currently (May, 2012) in construction and many more are planned in the near term. The prospects for 2GBs are more promising now than in the past but the delays in getting to this point mean that the ambitious targets of several years ago are unlikely to be reached in the near term. This article is categorized under: Bioenergy > Science and Materials Bioenergy > Economics and Policy Bioenergy > Systems and Infrastructure
Volumes for the Renewable Fuels Standards of the US Energy Independence and Security Act, 2007. Cellulosic biofuel = renewable fuels produced from cellulose, hemicellulose, or lignin (must meet a 60% + greenhouse gas (GG) reduction threshold compared to fossil fuels); Biomass‐based diesel = biodiesel or renewable diesel (must achieve 50% + GG reduction); total advanced biofuel = anything but corn‐based ethanol (must achieve 50% + GG reduction threshold); unclassified advanced biofuel = total advanced biofuel minus cellulosic and biomass‐based diesel fuel; total renewable fuel = ethanol from corn starch or any other qualifying renewable fuel (must achieve 20% + GG reduction); total minus advanced biofuel = expected volumes of corn‐starch ethanol.
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Graphical representation of the different feedstocks and conversion technologies used, and the different primary and final biofuel products obtained, from the commercial biorefineries listed in Table2. The companies written in italics are those that plan to start construction by the end of 2012, whereas those in normal typeface are currently (May, 2012) constructing commercial‐scale facilities. MSW = municipal solid waste; ABE = acetone, butanol, ethanol.
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