8. Biomass-Derived Liquid Fuels

B. Other Biomass-Derived Liquid Fuels

Biomass-Derived Methanol

Because it is cheaper to synthesize methanol from natural gas, only a minuscule manufacturing and market infrastructure for biomass-derived methanol currently exists. Most fuel methanol is consumed by fleets in conjunction with alternative fuel/alternative vehicle programs under Federal or State sponsorship in response to clean air laws and regulations.


Biomass-derived diesel fuel can be synthesized from soybeans, other oil crops, and animal tallow. Like biomass-derived methanol, biodiesel has a very small manufacturing base. It is currently used mainly for demonstration bus fleets. Although biodiesel has good environmental characteristics in terms of particulate matter reduction and fuel oxygenation, its exhaust emissions profile, like those of most alternative fuels, is not flawless. The EPA has not yet granted biodiesel "substantially similar" status, which would likely permit its commercialization on a more significant scale.

Metropolitan buses are a large contributor to particulate matter pollution, a serious health hazard. Demonstration fleets have shown that a 20 to 30 percent mixture of biodiesel with petroleum-based diesel fuel reduces particulate emissions. EPA's Urban Bus Retrofit/Rebuild Program requires bus operators in metropolitan areas with populations of more than 750,000 to operate under tighter particulate emission standards in 1995. The use of biodiesel is one option for compliance with the program. However, the cost of manufacture does not yet permit biodiesel to compete on an equal basis with conventional diesel fuel.

Return to Table of Contents
* * *