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Recent Trends and Future Perspectives of Biofuel Production in Asia


The production of biofuels can be instrumental in bringing an agricultural renaissance that revitalizes land use and livelihood in rural areas. Price signals of producing biofuel crops such as cereals, corn, sugarcane, root crops or oil plants to small-scale farmers could significantly increase both yields and incomes, securing real, long-term poverty reduction in developing countries that have a high dependence on agriculture. Large-scale biofuel crop cultivation could also provide benefits in the form of employment, skills development and secondary industry. However, if too much ‘first generation’ biofuel is made from these ‘food’ crops, food prices could rise, food insecurity could occur, and biodiversity might be threatened. Since these food crops also require high inputs in the form of agricultural chemicals, first generation biofuels often contribute to the increased greenhouse gas reduction emission. Moreover, where appropriate conditions are not in place, the rapid spread of food crop-based biofuel production may result in poorer groups losing access to the land on which they depend. Furthermore, purely from the point of fuels, many first generation biofuels depend on subsidies and are not cost competitive with existing fossil fuels. When taking emissions from production and transport into account, life cycle assessment from first generation biofuels frequently approach those of traditional fossil fuels.

Recently, second generation or advanced biofuel technologies have been developed because first generation biofuels are facing the aforementioned limitations and problems. The second-generation biofuel carbon is basically derived from cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin or pectin. The lignocellulosic feedstocks for second generation biofuels could include non-food energy crops specially grown on marginal land; green waste such as non-food parts of food crops (e.g. husks, straw, pulp, skin, etc.), post-harvest refuses and losses, forest residues (e.g. sawdust, woodchip, etc.) or garden or park waste (e.g. branches, leaves, weeds, etc.); food waste; waste oil; municipal solid waste; black liquor; etc. The conversion of these feedstocks into biofuels (e.g. ethanol, biokerosene, synthetic diesel, synthetic gas, etc.) usually involves high-temperature gasification or pyrolysis; biochemical pre-treatment to accelerate the hydrolysis process; microbial decomposition and fermentation, etc.

Generally, these second generation biofuels are considered more sustainable as the feedstock and processes used offer greater levels of greenhouse gas reduction and do not compete with food crops for land use. However, some technical barriers still limit the near-term commercial application of second-generation biofuels technologies. They include reliable long-term supply of biomass and catalysts (at a competitive price) used in conversion, low conversion efficiency from biomass to biofuels, large energy requirements for certain operations, and dependence, in some cases, on commercially unproven technologies. Despite a large future potential, large-scale expansion of advanced biofuels technologies is unlikely until further R&D lead to lowering these technical barriers.

Besides the technical challenges, there are two other types of challenges associated with pioneering a successful second-generation biofuels industry — economics and policy (including roadmap and strategies). The proposed workshop will primarily focus on technical challenges in consideration of the other two categories. And the said workshop is to bring together leading scientists in lignocellulosic biomass decomposition and fermentation, and high-performance biomass conversion processes for biofuel production; and concerned researchers from academia, agriculture, industry and/or national laboratories in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. The participants will discuss the current state of the art and define the most important technical challenges and research activities that must be addressed to hasten the expansion of second-generation biofuels industry.


  • Exchange information via presentation and panel discussion with leading scientists
  • Inform the biofuels community about the relevant issues to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of biofuels
  •  Identify R&D gaps in realizing the potential of second-generation biofuels; establishing sustainable biomass/feedstock production systems;
  • optimizing biomass harvesting and supply chain logistics; and developing effective biomass conversion processes for biofuels
  • Identify specific areas of R&D where there would be particular merit in developing joint collaborative research projects

Expected outputs

  • The public and private sectors will have a better understanding and clearer view on biofuel and biomass production approaches that can certainly be implemented in their country.
  • A network will be formed at the layer of bio-energy feed stock production which can identify their feed stock strength and foresee the   demand of the region to alleviate the future market problems

Major findings/recommendations:

  1. Create and promote models for policymaking based on other successful engagements on biofuel production and utilization from other countries;
  2. Enhance collaboration among biofuel industry players in order to collectively seek solutions to current technical problems and concerns;
  3. Encourage the development of research on cultivar improvement and feedstock management;
  4. Educate local people on biomass energy and biofuel production;
  5. Encourage actual demonstrations of biofuel and biomass production so that farmers can see for themselves the benefits of biofuel technologies;
  6. Continue to push for further studies on low cost biofuel production; and
  7. Encourage collaborative work among research institutions on finding the suitable tree species for biofuel production and biomass use.


PDF  pdf(284.55KB)


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