Biomass can be understood as regenerative (renewable) organic material that can be used to produce energy. These sources include aquatic or terrestrial vegetation, residues from forestry or agriculture, animal waste and municipal waste. Biomass is manufactured from crops, wood, manure, landfill gasses and alcohol fuels. Ethanol is a prime example of biomass alcohol fuel. Producing fuel and energy from biomass is a complex procedure but the principle behind it corresponds directly to photosynthesis.
Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases. Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price spikes, the need for increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and government subsidies.
Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials and it is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. With advanced technology being developed, cellulosic biomass, such as trees and grasses, are also used asfeedstocks for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil.
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most common biofuel in Europe.
Biofuels provided 1.8% of the world's transport fuel in 2008. Investment into biofuels production capacity exceeded $4 billion worldwide in 2007 and is growing.According to the International Energy Agency, biofuels have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050.