15 Biofuel Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages, and Impacts Explained

Biofuel uses are; electricity generation, heating, transport, dissolution, fossil fuel substitution, environmental remediation. Biofuel advantages and disadvantages are; sustainability, emissions-reduction, efficiency, hazard reduction (advantages); cost, land use, feasibility, suitability, and demand (disadvantages).

These are discussed in the article as follows;


-Six (6) Uses of Biofuel

-Five (5) Advantages of Biofuel as a Source of Energy

-Four (4) Biofuel Disadvantages









Six (6) Uses of Biofuel

1). Electricity Generation

Electricity generation is one of the uses of biofuel [6].

In generating electricity, biofuel works by releasing energy in the form of heat, which is converted to mechanical energy by use of a fuel cell, combustion engine and/or turbine system.

This mechanical energy is further converted to electricity through the electromagnetic effect, whereby a moving conductor in a magnetic field causes an electric current to flow through it. The principle is effective in many electric technologies, such as electric motors and generators [3].

Examples of biofuel used in electricity generation include biogas (which may be derived from landfills or anaerobic digestion plants), and ethanol. These fuels are often used as a backup energy source for fossil fuels in both institutional and industrial settings. 

As a source of energy for electricity generation, biofuel is used to power electronic systems and appliances. They may supply power directly through a generator system, or the power may be stored in batteries for subsequent use.

The introduction of biofuel into the field of electricity is part of measures to make power generation sustainable, and comes along with developments in the subfields of energy efficiency, energy conservation and energy management systems.


2). Heating as one of the Uses of Biofuel

Heating is the most common use of biofuel.

As a method of heat energy production, biofuel combustion is used in domestic, industrial, rural and urban settings. Some examples of biofuel for this application include firewood, wood pellets, and biodiesel.

In regions where there is no power supply or easy access to fossil fuels, wood can be used in place of kerosene, natural gas and electricity, for cooking and space heating.

Refined forms of biofuel like biodiesel, can be used as an additive in fossil fuel heat systems, to reduce unwanted gas emissions [5].


3). Biofuel for Transport

The transport sector is a major energy consumer, and accounts for up to 30% of total energy consumption in the United States [4]. A significant portion of fossil fuels are also used in transport.

Among renewable alternatives, biofuel is the most suitable for use in transport. This is due to the limited mobility of other renewable options.

For example; solar and wind energy can be harnessed using solar panels and wind turbines respectively. These are not very mobile, and can hardly be used in transport systems. They may only be used to provide power to be stored in batteries, but this can be a relatively-complex approach.

Efforts are being made to turn biofuel into a major energy source in vehicles and aviation systems. These efforts include modifications to the engines and fuels themselves. So far, liquid biofuel like biodiesel and ethanol have been used in some vehicles, either as a sole energy supplier or as a blend-component alongside other fuels.

Uses of Biofuel: Transport (Credit: Rsrikanth05 2016 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)
Uses of Biofuel: Transport (Credit: Rsrikanth05 2016 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)


4). Biofuel as a Solvent

Industrially, liquid biofuel can be used as a solvent.

A good example of a biofuel for this purpose is ethanol. Owing to its low melting point, versatility and miscibility, this biofuel can be used in chemical synthesis, and as a solvent for hydrocarbons, resins, waxes and fatty acids [8].

Based on this application, it is useful in industrial processes such as the production of iodine tincture [11].

Uses of Biofuel: As a Solvent (Credit: Fuhrland 2019 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)
Uses of Biofuel: As a Solvent (Credit: Fuhrland 2019 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)


Biofuel can also be used as an industrial lubricant [1]. In such cases, it serves as a renewable alternative to conventional lubricants.


5). Biofuel as a Substitute for Fossil Fuel

Because it is an energy source, biofuel can be used in place of fossil fuels, in some applications.

There are some additional benefits of this substitution. They include economic benefits, since biofuel is derived from renewable organic sources and may be cheaper in large-scale production, than fossil fuels.

The environment may also benefit, due to the fact that biofuel is a cleaner option than fossil fuels [13].


6). Environmental Remediation

Due to the solvent characteristics of liquid biofuel, it can be used in environmental remediation projects.

An example of this scenario is the use of ethanol to dissolve hydrocarbon pollutant in soil and water [10]. Because biofuel comes from organic sources, it does not have any notable negative impact on the environment when used in remediation.

Also, due to its organic origin, biofuel can be used as a stimulant in bioremediation, to drive microbial activity and pollutant-biodegradation.


Five (5) Advantages of Biofuel as a Source of Energy

1). Biofuel is Renewable

Biofuel is derived from biomass [12].

Being a renewable resource, biomass is less-difficult to acquire than non-renewable resources like fossil fuels. This implies that the production (but not necessarily the consumption) of biofuel is a sustainable process.

It also means that there is a broad variety of options that can serve as biofuel feedstock. Such options can be sourced from the industrial, agricultural and forestry sectors among others, in the form of industrial waste, agricultural waste and forestry residue respectively.


2). Greenhouse Emission-Reduction

The use of biofuel reduces greenhouse emission and overall environmental degradation, when compared to fossil fuels.

Some studies estimate a potential greenhouse gas reduction of approximately 65% with the use of biofuel [14]. Gases like carbon dioxide which contribute to global warming, are usually produced in lower volume when biofuel is used in place of fossil fuels.

The only limitation to a full substitution between the two options is the fact that fossil fuels are generally more energy-intensive than biofuel.

Another way to analyze the reduction of greenhouse gases by biofuel is through the carbon cycle and energy pyramid of the natural ecosystem.

Plant and animal matter absorb a roughly equivalent amount of carbon dioxide during growth and development as is released during combustion. This means that the net volume of lifecycle carbon emission for biofuel is very low.

In a scenario where biofuel is being commercially produced and consumed on a large-scale, the carbon which is released into the atmosphere during biofuel combustion, is reabsorbed into plant cells and soil during plant growth. This creates a natural, sustainable and environmentally-healthy carbon cycle.


3). Economic Prospects

While the cost of producing biofuel is currently not less than that for fossil fuels [9], biofuel presents some significant economic prospects.

One example of such prospects is the reduced dependence on imports for energy supply. Because biofuel is produced from renewable organic matter, its raw materials can be sourced locally.

Given that oil and gas import constitutes a major aspect of the economy of many countries, a switch from such reliance on energy imports will be very instrumental toward achieving economic security and independence.


4). Biofuel is Potentially Efficient

Biofuel is a generally good option with regards to energy efficiency and fuel efficiency (or conservative utilization).

Aside the environmental-compatibility of biofuel, it has other properties that make it good for engine durability. One of these is the lubricating characteristic of biofuel, which reduces energy losses due to resistance.

In automobiles, biofuel is associated with improved engine durability and performance [7]. Presence of less amounts of toxic components also contributes to efficiency.


5). Lower Hazard Potential

The use of biofuel is better for overall safety than some alternative energy sources.

In terms of storage, handling and transport, biofuel is safer than fossil fuels. It also produces less toxic byproducts that can cause environmental pollution and health problems.


Four (4) Biofuel Disadvantages

1). Agricultural Demands of Biofuel Production

In order to produce biofuel on a suitably-large scale, agricultural projects must be undertaken so as to grow crops for feedstock supply.

At the same time, the agricultural sector is subject to high demand in many countries of the world, due to food insecurity, hunger and poverty, among other issues.

What this implies is that it may be a disadvantage to divert agricultural resources toward biofuel production, especially is this is done at the expense of other important concerns.

Mass production of biofuel feedstock also implies that some soil conservation measures like crop rotation will be neglected. This exposes the soil to leaching, pollution and erosion among other problems.

In the absence of conservative agricultural practices, chemicals may be heavily relied upon for pest/weed control and soil fertility. The excessive use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can further contribute to environmental degradation.


2). Consumption of Environmental Resources

The production of biofuel can be demanding in terms of resources like energy and water [2].

Water is needed in the cultivation of crops to be used as biofuel feedstock. Energy is also needed for large-scale biomass conversion in order to produce biofuel.


3). Biofuel is Expensive to Produce

Because of technological limitations, low-rate of adoption and economic fluctuation, the general cost of producing biofuel is relatively high.

A major challenge which this poses is that of clean energy transition. Given the high cost of producing a renewable energy source like biofuel, there is little to no incentive for a transition away from fossil fuels. However, gradual technological advancements are expected to eventually reduce the cost of biofuel production.


4). Land Use and Climatic Suitability

Biofuel production and utilization is capable of altering land use patterns significantly.

This occurs mainly because biofuel production requires the use of land for feedstock-crop cultivation. Agricultural projects for biofuel feedstock production will involve converting large expanses of land from their previous uses to agricultural uses.

Deforestation is one of the processes that may be conducted in this process of agricultural conversion. Natural habitats may be lost, and carbon may be released into the atmosphere as a result. 

The mass production of biofuel feedstock may also demand that climatic conditions are suitable for cultivation. This can affect both the possibility and the effectiveness of biofuel dependence, as the ability to produce biofuel will be affected by environmental factors.



Biofuel is a renewable energy source, as it is derived directly from organic materials like plant and animal biomass.

The use of biofuel is healthier for the environment than the use of fossil fuels, as it reduces pollution and greenhouse emissions.

Uses of biofuel are;

  1. Electricity Generation
  2. Heating
  3. Transport
  4. Dissolution
  5. Fossil Fuel Substitution
  6. Environmental Remediation


Advantages of biofuel are;

  1. Renewable
  2. Greenhouse Emission-Reduction
  3. Economic Prospects
  4. Efficiency
  5. Lower Hazard Potential


Disadvantages of biofuel are;

  1. Agricultural Demands of Biofuel Production
  2. Consumption of Environmental Resources
  3. Biofuel is Expensive to Produce.
  4. Land Use and Climatic Suitability



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