Analytical Testing of Biofuels Identifies Need for QA

Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Inc. (SSI), based in Columbia, Maryland, has published “Overview of Biofuels and the Analytical Processes Used in their Manufacture,” a white paper that offers an overview of the rapidly expanding global biofuels market with a focus on ethanol and biodiesel used in auto transportation.

The paper, which provides context for these products within the fuel market and explains raw materials and manufacturing, describes the analytical processes and equipment used for quality assurance (QA) testing of raw materials, in-process materials, and end products — as well as reviews ASTM guidelines and industry standard practices. Overview As the cost of crude oil on the wholesale market continues to hover near $70 per barrel, and the United States and Western Europe remain dependent on petroleum imports from the politically unstable Middle East, biofuels and fuel additives are receiving an ever-increasing amount of attention from both commercial refiners and the general public. This has been furthered along by building public and scientific awareness of so-called “greenhouse gases” and their potential deleterious effects on the natural environment. These alternative products are manufactured from biomass, which is organic matter such as wood, plants, and organic wastes. Unlike other renewable energy sources, biomass can be converted directly into liquid fuels for transportation purposes. These biofuels are being researched and developed as direct replacements for petroleum-based fuels and as additive partial replacements (admix) to “stretch” existing petroleum reserves and reduce overall dependence on fossil fuels. For example, every one barrel of ethanol produced displaces 1.2 barrels of petroleum. Today, ethanol is blended into approximately 46 percent of the nation’s gasoline in an admix called E-10. The secondary goal is to reduce air pollution caused by combustion of petroleum-based fuels, where the additive serves as an oxygenate. At this time the leading biofuels/additives are ethanol (for gasoline and diesel) and biodiesel (for diesel). This white paper will provide an overview of biofuel development for the transportation sector, the biofuels market, and laboratory testing processes used in quality control and general research. Summary As biofuels continue to be pushed to the forefront of the energy market and the public’s consciousness, there will be a growing need for accurate analytical evaluation of every part of the fuel manufacturing process. Continued refinements in methods and equipment will help insure quality products in the marketplace, which will, in turn, eliminate any potential stigmas or objections that remain in consumers’ minds about these alternatives.
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