Biomass is currently the only renewable alternative to fossil fuels for liquid fuels, lubricants and building block molecules for chemicals.
Biomass is defined as any organic plant or animal matter capable of producing energy.
At Total, we have been converting biomass to produce renewable fuels called biofuels since the 1990s. They are blended with fossil fuels for sale at service stations.
We primarily make ETBE — or ethyl tert-butyl ether — which can be added to gasoline, and HVO, which stands for hydrotreated vegetable oil, for diesel fuels. Both types of biofuel are made in our refineries in France and Belgium.
By 2017 we will produce some 500,000 metric tons a year of HVO, which is very easy to blend in diesel, at La Mède. The new biorefinery will process two categories of oil: mainly wastes or residues (30 and 40%), supplemented by vegetable oils.
We're also very involved in research and development on cellulosic biomass, including a flagship project in each of the biological fermentation and thermochemical conversion pathways.
· Biological fermentation harnesses microorganisms - yeast strains - to convert the sugar derived from biomass to molecules that can be used to produce fuels in particular.
We are concentrating on using the cellulosic sugars from the non-food parts of plants. To that end we are partners with Amyris, a California-based company that has a cutting-edge synthetic biology platform and an industrial-scale demonstration unit in Brazil.
· Thermochemical conversion transforms the biomass under the combined effects of heat and pressure.
Our BioTfueL project aims to devise a conversion process that can mix farming waste and fossil fuel residues to produce premium biofuels.
The European Union will require fuels to incorporate 10% biofuels, up from around 5% now, in 2020. At Total, we'll be ready!