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Olympics trial for new fuels

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Cars from the London 2012 Olympic fleet are being fuelled by a new range of biofuels developed by BP. The trial involves 100 vehicles from the 4,000-strong BMW fleet that are being used to ferry athletes, officials and journalists around the capital during the Games.

“These breakthrough technologies will redefine biofuels,” said Philip New, chief executive officer of BP Biofuels.
“By incorporating them in the fuels for London 2012 we have taken the next generation of biofuels from the laboratory to the road.”

BP is using three advanced biofuel blends containing cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol or sugar to diesel (S2D), which have been specially produced for the Olympic trial (see below).

New told Fleet News: “We think biobutanol and cellulosic ethanol should be ready for initial commercialisation towards the end of 2014 or sometime at the beginning of 2015.

“Sugar to diesel is a less mature technology. There’s a lot more work that needs to go into getting the biology right so that we can get the cost curve down to a point where we think it’s going to be properly competitive.”

Currently, blends of up to 7% biodiesel and 5% bioethanol can be sold without additional labelling. It is also possible to use higher blends of biofuel such as B100 which is 100% biodiesel and E85 which is 85% ethanol, but this may require modifications to engines.

Biodiesel is available at higher blends than 7% at a limited number of outlets in the UK, but it must be clearly labelled.

In order to honour warranties, manufacturers insist that fuels must meet European quality standards, but the level of inclusion is likely to increase to 10% over the next few years.

A number of vehicle manufacturers are already producing ‘E85 flex-fuel vehicles’ which can run on any petrol containing anything from zero to 85% ethanol.

BP says that biofuels account for 3% of global transport fuels used, but it expects this to increase to 9% by 2030. Drivers include climate-change targets, energy security concerns and the possibility the fuels may be a lucrative crop for ailing rural communities, according to New.

He added: “There is more than enough arable land to meet most realistic estimates of food, feed and fuel needs into the future.

“We want something that can compete with crude so we would rather not use high-value, high-worth land that can produce corn.

“What we would rather do is be able to use land that is of less value, because that will support our economics.”

However, BP’s enthusiasm was not shared by Action Aid, which has been especially vocal in its opposition to biofuels.

Clare Coffey, policy adviser at ActionAid UK, said: “We need to be absolutely certain that whatever their generation, biofuels must not involve precious land or water being diverted from growing food to growing fuel.”

BP’s three options

Cellulosic ethanol is made from purpose-grown energy grasses. Blended with BP Ultimate unleaded it is, at 103, the highest-octane fuel ever pumped from a UK forecourt.

Biobutanol, made by the advanced fermentation of plant sugars by a special micro-organism, aims to deliver more miles per tank and offer excellent compatibility with modern engines compared to conventional biofuels.

It can be mixed with petrol at a much higher concentration than bioethanol and is already commercially available in countries such as France and Germany.

Sugar to diesel (S2D) transforms sugars into a renewable diesel fuel that performs like conventional diesel. It can be made from any source of sugar and BP is currently developing the technology to take it from lab to pump.


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