May 17, 2020

Types of Biofuels: Ethanol, Biodiesel, Biobutanol

4 min
Several companies are developing various types of biofuels.  We reveal the pros and cons of the top three: Ethanol, Biodiesel, and Biobutanol


Types of Biofuels—Ethanol, Biodiesel, Biobutanol—and the Companies Making Them



Ethanol is essentially pure alcohol—the same stuff that gets you into trouble on Saturday nights—and is perhaps the most ubiquitous of the alternative biofuels making their way into people’s gas tanks.  It can be made from various sources, but the most common are corn and sugarcane.  The U.S. government in early 2011 approved ethanol blends of up to 15 percent for use in vehicle models newer than 2001, and blends of 10 percent have been used for years now with no need for engine modification.  But there has been controversy surrounding just how sustainable ethanol actually is. 


  • It’s renewable! Ethanol can be regenerated given sufficient crop yield.
  • Domestic production reduces dependence on foreign fossil fuels and boosts rural farming economies.
  • Ethanol is cleaner burning than gasoline, releasing roughly 15 percent less greenhouse gas emissions
  • Advances in cellulosic ethanol can make ethanol fuel from waste cellulose like scrap wood, food byproducts, and non-food plants such as switchgrass


  • Ethanol derived from corn, beets, and sugarcane competes directly with food supply, and drive up the cost of other foods and grain-fed meats
  • Farmed ethanol crops tend to erode soil and use toxic industrial agrochemicals that can contaminate water supplies.
  • Ethanol has less stored energy than gasoline, reducing fuel mileage from between 15 to 30 percent
  • It currently requires more energy to create large quantities of ethanol than it produces; however, cellulosic ethanol may be the “magic bullet” to solve this and the food competition dilemma.
  • High blends or pure ethanol can be corrosive to engines not designed to run on it, and cannot be transported via existing oil pipelines due to corrosion restraints.
  • Converting a standard gasoline engine to run on high blends or pure ethanol can be costly, ranging from several hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Top Ethanol Companies

  • Archer Daniels Midland
  • Growth Energy
  • Aventine
  • Cosan



Gaining in popularity, biodiesel mimics petroleum-based diesel fuel and is derived from vegetable or animal oils.  In fact, several biodiesel companies simply collect used restaurant cooking oil and convert it into biodiesel.  What’s more exciting is the more recent promise of biodiesel-generating algae and bacteria strains.  Scientists are even genetically engineering these microorganisms to create biodiesel lipids with minimal or no feedstock necessary, just sunlight and CO2, much like plant photosynthesis!


  • It’s also renewable!  Sufficient plant, algae or bacteria crops can yield abundant biodiesel fuel.
  • It’s recycled!  Much of the biodiesel on the market is derived from used cooking vegetable oils.
  • Domestic production reduces dependence on foreign fossil fuels and boosts rural farming economies.
  • Reduces tailpipe emissions compared to petroleum-based diesel, is cleaner burning, and contains no sulfur, eliminating sulfur dioxide emissions.


  • Biodiesel is currently more expensive to commercially produce than petroleum diesel as production infrastructure is not yet on a mass-scale
  • Biodiesel is susceptible to cold weather, and can gel when the temperature drops, causing fuel injection problems (although this can be fixed with costly engine modifications). 
  • While several diesel vehicle engines can run on biodiesel with minimal or no modifications, biodiesel does not work in standard gasoline engines. 
  • Biodiesel production increases food costs, both in food crops used to generate biodiesel, as well as feedstocks for biodisel generating algae and bacteria.


Top Biodiesel Companies

  • Renewable Energy Group Inc.
  • DuPont
  • Australian Renewable Fuels Limited
  • Imperium Renewables Inc.
  • Cargill, Inc.



While it’s the less well known of the three biofuels featured, biobutanol holds the most promise.  Biobutanol is simply isobutanol derived from bacteria or algae, much like biodiesel.  However, the beauty of biobutanol is that it can potentially be directly used in standard gasoline engines with no modification!


  • It’s also renewable!  Biobutanol is produced from algae or bacteria.
  • It can be used directly in gasoline engines with no modification.
  • It can use existing pipeline and supply chain infrastructure for distribution.
  • It has a high octane level, so there’s little if any loss in fuel mileage.
  • Non-corrosive to engines and pipelines
  • Domestic production reduces dependence on foreign fossil fuels


  • Feedstocks are required for production, although non-food feedstocks and genetically modified bacteria and algae strains may resolve this issue.
  • Production costs are relatively high, but the industry is in its infancy, and as it grows costs will come down.

Top BioButanol Companies

  • Butamax: a DuPont and BP joint venture
  • Cobalt Technologies
  • Bioenergy International

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Apr 20, 2021

Amazon's renewable energy projects surpass 200 milestone

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Nine new projects announced today takes Amazon's renewables portfolio beyond 200 projects

Amazon claims it is now Europe's largest corporate buyer of renewable energy as its projects surpassed 200 globally.

Broken down, it has 136 solar rooftops on facilities and stores and 71 utility-scale wind and solar projects, nine of which were announced today covering the US, Canada, Spain, Sweden and UK. They include:

First solar project paired with energy storage Based in California’s Imperial Valley, Amazon’s first solar project paired with energy storage allows the company to align solar generation with the greatest demand. The project generates 100MW of solar energy, and includes 70MW storage.

First renewable project in Canada An 80 MW solar project in the County of Newell in Alberta. Once complete, it will produce over 195,000MWh of renewable energy to the grid.

Largest corporate renewable energy project in the UK Amazon’s newest project in the UK is a 350MW wind farm off the coast of Scotland and is Amazon’s largest in the country. It is also the largest corporate renewable energy deal announced by any company in the UK to date.

New projects in the US Amazon’s first renewable energy project in Oklahoma is a 118 MW wind project located in Murray County. Amazon is also building new solar projects in Ohio’s Allen, Auglaize, and Licking counties. Together, these Ohio projects will account for more than 400MW of new energy procurement in the state.

Additional investments in Spain and Sweden In Spain, Amazon’s newest solar projects are located in Extremadura and Andalucia, and together add more than 170 MW to the grid. Amazon’s newest project in Sweden is a 258 MW onshore wind project located in Northern Sweden.

It now has more than 2.5 GW of renewable energy capacity, enough to power more than two million European homes a year, and aims to power all its activities with renewables by 2025 and net zero by 2040.

Amazon and Global Optimism co-founded The Climate Pledge in 2019, a commit ment to reach the Paris Agreement 10 years early and be net-zero carbon by 2040. The pledge now has 53 signatories, including IBM, Unilever, Verizon, Siemens, Microsoft, and Best Buy.

A map of all of Amazon’s renewable energy projects around the world can be found here.

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