Gulf Coast Conference: Understanding the Changing Landscape for Clean Energy

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On October 10, Scott Fenwick, technical director of Clean Fuels Alliance America, a nonprofit trade association focused on clean energy, spoke at the Gulf Coast Conference in Galveston, Texas. Fenwick’s talk focused on the changing landscape for fuel, the growth of biomass-based fuels, and the future of the industry. Clean Fuels Alliance America works with various organizations that work with biodiesels, renewable diesel, sustainable fuels, and feedstock suppliers.

Scott Fenwick | Image Credit: © Gulf Coast Conference

Scott Fenwick | Image Credit: © Gulf Coast Conference

“My goal is to address any technical barriers that would prevent or pivot either higher volumes of [biodiesels and sustainable fuels] or a higher blend,” Fenwick said (1). Working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Fenwick is focused on helping equipment manufacturers adopt renewable fuels.

Biofuels, which are produced by biomass like plant matter or waste products, have grown in popularity in recent years. There are a variety of techniques used to analyze these substances, including two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC), mass spectrometry (MS), and more. GCxGC systems that utilize flow modulation can prove effective and “[reward] the operator with a lower cost, lower maintenance, and easier to use GCxGC application which also eliminates low boiler breakthrough issues common to the cryogenic trap,” Fenwick said (1). Whereas mass spectrometry can identify and quantify components in biofuel samples, informing scientists on biofuels’ chemical compositions, including the presence of impurities or contaminants.

Clean Fuels Alliance America aims to have biodiesels, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel recognized as mainstream low-carbon fuels and exceeding 6 billion gallons used by 2030. In 2022, around 3.5 billion gallons of sustainable fuels were used, Fenwick reported. Feedstock supplies are a major growth source for biodiesels, he said, with the potential for 15 billion gallons by 2050. However, there are issues with sample handling like fuel quality and federal polices, which could impact the space.

“Ninety percent, my number, of the fuel-related issues in the marketplace are not because of poor production, they are because of poor sample handling and distribution procedures,” he said. “There are some best practices that hardly anybody follows,” he added.

Biodiesels are becoming more widely accepted for being liquid-renewable fuels that can work within the same systems as petroleum hydrocarbons.

But the diesel fuel industry is also changing, with carbon reduction mainly driving the market. Government regulations have a significant impact on the future of this industry.California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program, for example, is designed to speed up electrification and reduce internal combustion engines, as of Q1 2023, biomass-based fuels helped the state reach its goal more than other sources, with 57.5% of diesel fuel in California now being renewable, Fenwick said.

Biodiesel and renewable fuels are growing in demand, with higher blends, new machinery, and open data sharing bringing in more growth opportunities. New changes in fuels and technologies arise daily, and with that, biodiesels and renewable diesels could potentially develop even further.

Reference

(1) Instruments and Techniques to Analyze Biofuels. Chromatography Today 2023. https://www.chromatographytoday.com/news/gc-mdgc/32/international-labmate-ltd/instruments-and-techniques-to-analyse-biofuels/59636 (accessed 2023-10-17)

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