Oklahoma State University

Gaseous Biofuels

Gaseous Biofuels


Hydrogen has the potential to revolutionize transportation and, possibly, our entire energy system. It is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe, but it is not available in its free form (H2). Hydrogen is locked up in enormous quantities in water (H2O), hydrocarbons (such as methane, CH4) and other organic matter. Hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels, biomass, and even by electrolyzing water. Producing hydrogen with renewable energy and using it in fuel cell vehicles holds the promise of virtually pollution-free transportation and independence from imported petroleum. Hydrogen also can be used to fuel internal combustion engines and fuel cells, both of which can power low- or zero-emissions vehicles. Major research and development efforts are aimed at making hydrogen vehicles practical for widespread use.


Propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is used by many fleets. It has a high energy density, giving propane vehicles good driving range, and propane fueling infrastructure is widespread. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an efficient chemical process for making propane from sugars. Biopropane conversion has a good energy balance: little fossil fuel needs to be burned during production. The reaction does not require the input of a large amount of energy because the heat that is key to the biopropane conversion is recoverable using a heat exchanger, a device that transfers heat in and out of a fluid.

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