Some implications of biofuel development for engineering infrastructures in the United States

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Under the US Environmental Protection Agency's Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, mandates to increase the consumption of renewable fuels in transportation in the USA are leading to the emergence of a biofuel economy with infrastructure implications. This shift requires immediate consideration, as current engineering infrastructures may not be sufficient to support the realization of the mandates. New biorefineries will need to be established where suitable land is available and the climate is appropriate for growing feedstocks. Investments may need to be made to accommodate increases in local, regional, and national traffic from the transport of feedstocks and finished biofuels. Further, the large water demands of biorefineries and of growing feedstocks impose even greater pressure on water supply utilities. Higher sediment and nutrient runoffs from more intensive cultivation of corn (as feedstock for ethanol) have negative water quality effects that may lead to the need for upgrading drinking-water treatment facilities. Any infrastructure expansion should be conducted strategically, keeping in mind resource constraints, and environmental and social impacts. To understand the infrastructure needs and bottlenecks of biofuel development, a systems approach encompassing all aspects of the problem is essential. Research is needed to quantify the interdependencies, resiliency, and sustainability of the entire system in meeting biofuel goals. Research is also needed to integrate the social and physical aspects of the problem into a holistic framework for planning and management purposes. This paper reviews the literature to gain insights into some implications of biofuel development for engineering infrastructures in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-592
Number of pages12
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Volume5
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

Keywords

  • Biorefineries
  • Ethanol
  • Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program
  • Transportation infrastructures
  • USA
  • Water infrastructures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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