Major sources of Biomass

The major biomass sources currently used are sugar cane and corn to produce bioethanol, and rapeseed for biodiesel production. Other sources are also used such as sunflower seeds, soybean, canola, peanuts, jatropha, coconut and palm oil for biodiesel, and wheat, sugar beet, sweet sorghum and cassava for bioethanol (Brown, 2006; GEF-STAP, 2006). The fuel and energy yields vary with the type of plant material used. It is highest for oil palm and sugar cane in the biodiesel and bioethanol sector respectively (Worldwatch Institute, 2006). A wide range of cellulosic materials such as grassy crops, woody plants, by-products from the forestry and agricultural sector (including wood residues, stems and stalks) and municipal wastes constitute the so-called second generation of feedstock, for which the conversion technologies are still experimental.

Brazil is the leading country in bioethanol production. It uses sugar cane as the main feedstock. Brazil is the only large-scale example of a mature biofuel industry that made bioethanol economical for consumers, satisfying 40% of its vehicle fuel needs (Brown, 2006; Worldwatch Institute, 2006). The United States is the second biggest bioethanol producer. Their ethanol is made out of corn grain and provides a little less than 2% of the total automotive fuel needs (Brown, 2006; Worldwatch Institute, 2006). These two countries represented about 71% of the bioethanol production worldwide in 2004 (calculated from Brown, 2006 and Worldwatch Institute, 2006). Regarding biodiesel production, Europe is the leader with Germany providing about 55% of the total biodiesel production in 2005, followed by France, which has a 15% share (calculated from Worldwatch Institute, 2006). Both countries use rapeseed as the main feedstock (Brown, 2006).

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme