Is Second-Generation Bioethanol Better in Comparison to First-Generation Bioethanol?

BIS Research
4 min readJul 14, 2022


As the need for biofuels is continually growing and evolving, the demand for eco-friendly biofuels is also on the rise.

Second-generation bioethanol is one of the most remarkable developments of biofuels in the current times after first-generation bioethanol. Globally, Europe is considered one of the world’s biggest bioethanol producers.

Read on to understand how second-generation bioethanol is different from first-generation bioethanol.

What is bioethanol?

Bioethanol refers to a type of biofuel that is produced through a process called fermentation. It uses several natural sugars produced from crops such as sugarcane, wood, and grass.

Bioethanol is the most reliable energy source used in the current times by various sectors, such as the automobile sector.

Bioethanol biofuels are classified into two types, i.e., first-generation (1G) bioethanol and second-generation (2G) bioethanol, according to the raw materials used in production.

How is first-generation bioethanol different from second-generation bioethanol?

  • First-Generation Bioethanol

For the production of first-generation bioethanol, raw materials such as sugarcane and corn seeds are among the most required food sources.

Since the global population is constantly increasing, getting raw materials to produce 1G bioethanol is challenging and a major concern.

Most countries do not have enough raw materials required for producing 1G bioethanol due to the increasing population.

  • Second-Generation Bioethanol

The key difference between the first- and second-generation bioethanol is the production process.

The farm waste left after harvesting is used for producing second-generation bioethanol, whereas raw materials such as corn and sugarcane are a compulsory requirement for the production of first-generation bioethanol.

There are several drawbacks of producing first-generation bioethanol that are mentioned as follows:

  • The production results in a more elevated cost of food due to the high demand for raw materials
  • Provides limited greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction benefits
  • Does not have environmental benefits since the production of first-generation bioethanol is not sustainable

Due to the mentioned drawbacks, the demand for second-generation bioethanol is constantly increasing. According to the BIS Research report, the global transportation grade bioethanol market is expected to reach $106,780.6 million by 2031 from a market value of $64,012.8 in 2021. The market is supposed to grow at a CAGR of 5.4% during the forecasted period of 2022–2031.

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Second-Generation Bioethanol Production Technology

The production of second-generation bioethanol process are different from those of the first-generation biofuels.

It is due to the fact that the lignocellulose feedstock undergoes multiple processing steps before getting transformed into ethanol.

  • Thermochemical Conversion

The process of thermochemical conversion starts with the use of a technology called gasification.

Gasification technology has been used extensively for many years on several conventional fossil fuels. The second-generation gasification technologies have slightly changed to adjust the dissimilarities in the biomass stock.

Through gasification technology, carbon-based materials are converted into carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.

The resulting gas from the mentioned process is known as syngas or synthesis gas and is mainly used for producing heat or energy. Examples of feedstock used in the process are brown liquor, black liquor, and wood.

The other technology used in the thermochemical conversion is called pyrolysis. It is also being used for the production of fossil fuels. Pyrolysis is carried out in the absence of oxygen and in the presence of an inert gas such as halogen. Energy crops such as wood can be easily used as feedstock for producing bio-oil via pyrolysis.

  • Biochemical Conversion

Several chemical and biological processes are getting adapted to the production of second-generation bioethanol.

The biochemical conversion process employs pre-treatment of the farm waste to increase the speed of the hydrolysis procedure for separating cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.

Once the mentioned ingredients get separated, the cellulose particles can be fermented into alcohol.

According to Komal, Research Analyst, BIS Research, “Bioethanol is a better replacement for conventional fossil fuels as it is highly sustainable. The growing shift from conventional to environment-friendly products and blending mandates from regulatory bodies such as the Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the percentage of ethanol in fuels are the key factors behind the global transportation grade bioethanol market growth. Furthermore, the increase in the prices of fossil fuels because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has prompted considering ways to minimize reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate the green transition.”

Final Thoughts

The bioethanol industry, like other industries, was also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, several government ambitions for the use and adoption of biofuels have proven to be beneficial for the industry. Currently, the demand for second-generation bioethanol is constantly increasing, and it is being used in different sectors, such as the automotive sector.

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