The seven strangest sources of biofuel


Biofuels are a great alternative source of energy to consider as they burn cleaner than fossil fuels, releasing fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. There are two main types of biofuels: bioethanol, which is used as petrol, and biodiesel, which is used to power diesel engines.

Sure, you’ve heard of human waste and cow dung being used as sources of biofuels through anaerobic digestion. You also probably know the other major sources of biofuel too: corn, sugarcane, wheat, palm oil and soya beans.

But there are some other surprising sources abound in the world of biofuels, with researchers probing the farthest reaches of their imagination in hopes of spinning gold from – well, crap. So here are a few of the unusual, less known sources of biofuel. Take a look.

1. Human Liposuction Fat

Yep, biofuel derived from unwanted human flubber. It could open happen in LA, we suppose. There have been reports about liposuction fat being used to power vehicles, such a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who used liposuctioned human fat to power two SUVs with biodiesel.

Also, Skipper Pete Bethune, tried to set a round-the-world speed record running powerboat only on biodiesel. One of the constituents of his fuel was liposuction fat.

2. Cheese

The Lake District is the proud owner of the first anaerobic digestion plant in Europe to be fed solely by cheese. The AD tank is pumped full of liquid whey residue left over from the cheese making, the bacteria then feeds off the fats and sugars in the cheese residues, producing 1,000 cubic metres of biogas. This is enough to meet the gas for over 4,000 households. A much better ideas than that mouldy cheese sat in your fridge.

3. Jatropha

Ever heard of it? Nope, neither had we. But this poisonous tropical shrub has seeds that are forty percent oil, which has been historically used as lamp oil. Starting in the mid-200s, ten of thousands of acres of jatropha were planted for biofuel, mostly in India and Africa.

Researchers are continuing to breed improved varieties, however, and several African countries continue to invest in it, envision this scrappy shrub as a key to their future fuel supply.

4. Algae

Algae produces up to 200 times more oil per acre than soy. Yikes. These fast-growing aquatic organisms can be grown in salt water, municipal wastewater lagoons, or in shallow manmade basins in the desert where no other crops can survive. They can store half of their body weight in fat, which is ideal for rendering into oil for fuel production. They also grow amazingly fast, so it’s a crop that could meet high demands for energy in the long run.

5. Wine Lakes

A few years ago, The European Commission put out a tender the opportunity to turn its excess wine into bioethanol. It’s been reported that just in the Bordeaux region, roughly seventeen million litres (almost two million cases) of wine is converted into ethanol fuel.

It’s also been reported that The Prince of Wales fuels is Aston Martin D86 with ethanol made from wine. The prince’s collection of Jaguars, and his Audi and Range Rover run on waste oil biodiesel, part of a one million investment by the Prince in converting his fuel and heating systems to eco-friendly sources. Of course, no royal wine has been wasted, naturally the wine used to make the Prince’s ethanol is waste wine that is unsuitable for consumption.

6. Nappies

The UK throws away around three billion disposable nappies a year, while in the US it’s approximately twenty billion. But now we’re developing new ways of reusing dirty nappies into biofuel. The nappies are processed by separating the fibres from the plastic components and the sanitary waste must be made non-toxic – before fermentation to liquid transport fuel.

7.  Kale

Kale had a foodie trend moment, but it’s not just a powerful antioxidant used in salads and smoothies in East London. It’s actually a vegetable that produces a powerful biogas yield. Similarly, to seaweed, Kale can be turned into a kind of ‘bio-crude’ that can be further refined into a biofuel.

Alice Bayfield