Sustainability of the four generations of biofuels – A review

Nurul Syahirah Mat Aron, Kuan Shiong Khoo, Kit Wayne Chew, Pau Loke Show, Wei Hsin Chen, The Hong Phong Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Scopus citations


Biofuel has emerged as an alternative source of energy to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and combat global warming. Biofuels are classified into first, second, third and fourth generations. Each of the biofuel generations aims to meet the global energy demand while minimizing environmental impacts. Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the current generations without jeopardizing the needs of future generations. The aim of sustainability is to ensure continuous growth of the economy while protecting the environment and societal needs. Thus, this paper aims to evaluate the sustainability of these four generations of biofuels. The objectives are to compare the production of biofuel, the net greenhouse gases emissions, and energy efficiency. This study is important in providing information for the policymakers and researchers in the decision-making for the future development of green energy. Each of the biofuel generations shows different benefits and drawbacks. From this study, we conclude that the first generation biofuel has the highest biofuel production and energy efficiency, but is less effective in meeting the goal of reducing the greenhouse gases emission. The third generation biofuel shows the lowest net greenhouse gases emissions, allowing the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the energy required for the processing of the third generation biofuel is higher and, this makes it less environmentally friendly as fossil fuels are used to generate electricity. The third and fourth generation feedstocks are the potential sustainable source for the future production of biofuel. However, more studies need to be done to find an alternative low cost for biofuel production while increasing energy efficiency.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)9266-9282
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Energy Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 10 Oct 2020


  • biofuel
  • energy efficiency
  • generations of biofuel
  • GHGs emissions
  • sustainability


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