Creating advanced fuel blends and engines to match them could help reduce emissions and water use over the next 30 years, suggests an Argonne National Laboratory-led (ANL) study.
The ANL study – which includes scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and data analysis firm Lexidyne – has examined the potential impact of diversifying the U.S. fuel mix to include increased proportions of biofuels and engines designed to use these fuel blends.
Doing so could help make engines 10% more efficient compared to those running on conventional fuel, contends the paper’s authors.
“It is very exciting that biomass holds the potential to produce blendstocks that can boost fuel economy,” says ANL chemical engineer and lead author, Jennifer Dunn.
“This reduces fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by two routes: less fuel consumption overall and an increased share of fuel that has a lower carbon footprint than conventional gasoline because it is made from renewable biomass.”
The ANL study is a part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative.
It has been using computer models to analyze the economic and environmental impacts of broadly adopting three different bio-blendstocks, or biomass-derived fuels that can be blended with conventional ones: ethanol, isopropanol, and furan.
The results showed that from 2025 to 2050, cumulative greenhouse gas emissions would be 4 to 7 percent lower for the light-duty transportation sector compared to a business-as-usual case.
Beginning in 2050, emission reductions could reach the range of 7 to 9 percent.
Moreover, water consumption declined by 3 to 4 percent and levels of the small, hazardous particulate matter known as PM2.5 dropped 3 percent in the 2025 to 2050 period.
Evolving the U.S. fleet to include more advanced engine designs co-optimized to take advantage of bio-blendstocks could support anywhere from 278,000 to 1.7 million more jobs annually, says the study’s authors.
Of course, this would depend on the speed and scope of the scale-up, cautions Dunn.
It is thus necessary to stay on course with the development of these technologies and their introduction into the vehicle choices consumers have.
Image and content: Fewerton-Shutterstock/ANL