Wood Biofuel can be made Commercially Viable

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Wood could become a commercially viable biofuel and serve as a substitute for corn and sugar cane by 2020 if efforts are made to develop it, a study by University of British Columbia says.

According to the study, the production of ethanol from wood can be made less costly, leading to commercial viability.

In some countries, governments require oil firms to blend a portion of the gasoline production they sell to customers with ethanol. Countries like the U.S. use corn as feedstock for ethanol while countries like Brazil and Thailand rely on sugar cane.

Ethanol from wood is considered more costly to produce, compared to ethanol from corn or sugar cane.

The UBC study shows that producing wood-based ethanol on a large scale would eliminate the cost barrier, since it would reduce capital and operation costs.

"As industrial production increases, cellulosic ethanol is likely to become more competitive with corn ethanol for a share of the renewable fuels market," Jamie Stephen, a PhD candidate at the UBC, told ScienceDaily.

According to the research, cutting the capital costs of facilities and equipments, reducing enzyme cost, and earning additional revenues by putting up co-generation facilities next to ethanol plants could make the production of wood-based ethanol commercially competitive,

The study said that as demand increases, technological advancements and economies of scale could reduce further reduce the cost of production in the long run.

One advantage of wood-based ethanol is that it does not compete with food. Some groups oppose mass production of ethanol from corn and sugar cane because it diverts crops from food.

"If you do a purely economic production cost comparison between wood and corn today, corn will be the lower cost option," Stephen said.

"If we consider other factors, like energy security, the environmental impact and availability of resources, cellulosic ethanol becomes a more competitive option for Canada and the United States," he added.

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