Glossary N-Z

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This page provides a glossary of terminology related to bioenergy. See also the list of acronyms

  • NOTE: Due to the length of this page, it has been divided into two pages, Glossary A-M and Glossary N-Z.
  • NOTE: Items marked with the symbol "W" are extracted from the Glossary from the publication Biofuels for Transportation by the Worldwatch Institute; used with permission.



neat fuel
fuel in its pure, unblended form. W
net energy
Also known as net energy gain or yield, is an important concept in energy economics, referring to a surplus condition in the difference between the energy required to harvest an energy source and the energy provided by that same source. (source:Wikipedia)
nitride glycol
An additive to alcohol fuels used to increase lubricity. W
nitrogen oxide (NOx)
The generic term for a group of highly reactive gases, all of which contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts. W
nitrous oxide (N2O)
A nitrogen oxide that is a common pollutant from burning fossil fuels or organic matter. It is a powerful greenhouse gas and a known ozone-depleting substance. W
non-timber forest product (NTFPs)


Includes carbon offsets, wildlife offsets, etc.
oil alternative 
Any substance which can be used as a substitute for oil for engine fuel, the production of plastic or other uses. Includes biodiesel and ethanol among others. (This definition may need work)
oil crop 
oil seeds 
oleaginous plants 
Oil-bearing plants. Oleaginous plants or crops can be used for production of biodiesel. Such plants include soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower.
organic waste 
A chemical compound containing oxygen; usually refers to fuels and fuel additives that reduce the generation of carbon monoxide during fuel combustion. (See Wikipedia)


palm oil
Palm oil is a form of edible vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the Oil palm tree. Palm oil and palm kernel oil are composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol just like any ordinary fat. Both are very high in saturated fatty acids. Palm oil is a common feedstock for biodiesel. (This definition may need work)(source:Wikipedia)
particulate matter (PM)
Fine particles of solids suspended in gas. Anthropogenic sources of aerosols originate from the burning of fossil fuels or from wind-blown dust from construction and agricultural areas. PM from petroleum sources, such as soot, are human health hazards as they may carry carcinogens. W
Partially carbonized vegetable matter, usually mosses, found in bogs and used as fertilizer and fuel. (
A plant which lives for two or more years. Contrasted with annual plants that die after seeding.
Perennial biomass crops: A perennial crop used to produce biomass for either bioenergy or bioproduct production.
Perennial energy crop
A perennial plant that is used for bioenergy production. This is usually used to refer to non-food crops like switchgrass, rather than dual-use crops that are also perennial, like oil palm.
peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN)
An organic compound formed in the atmosphere from the addition of nitrogen dioxide, NO2, to the peroxyacyl radical formed in the oxidation of acetaldehyde. It is a component of photochemical smog and can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. W
photo-bioreactor (PBR)
A photobioreactor is a bioreactor which incorporates some type of light source, often used to grow algae. While almost anything that it would be possible to grow algae in could technically be called a photobioreactor, the term is more commonly used to define a closed system, as opposed to an open tank, or pond. (source:Wikipedia). (Also written photobioreactor.)
a process by which plants convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugars, fats and proteins.
photovoltaic (PV)
Photovoltaics, such as solar panels or solar cells, convert sunlight into electricity. W
plug-in hybrid (PHEV)
A hybrid gas-electric car that can be plugged in to a normal electrical outlet to charge its batteries as well as being filled with liquid fuel. (source: Calcars)
poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
A group of compounds, of which there are about 10,000, that result largely from the incomplete combustion of carbon-based materials such as fossil fuels and wood. PAHs can bond with ash and become particulate matter, irritating respiratory systems when inhaled. W
a form of agriculture, which in contrast to monoculture, attempts to mirror natural ecosystems by cultivating multiple types of crop on the same area of land.
polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
A hard plastic commonly used in construction and pipes. While inconclusive, some studies point to PVC as a source of carcinogenic dioxins in the environment. W
potassium hydroxide
KOH, commonly known as caustic potash, is a catalyst used with rapeseed oil in the process of transesterification to create rapeseed methyl ester (RME), a biodiesel fuel. W
Programa Nacional do Álcool (National Alcohol Program). A Brazilian program launched in 1975 that aimed to reduce the country’s dependence on petroleum by subsidizing the production of ethanol from sugar cane as a substitute for gasoline. The program has encouraged many technological advances and contributed to the enormous increase in Brazilian ethanol production. W
Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF)
The first carbon financing mechanism at the World Bank; a public private partnership consisting of 17 companies and 6 governments. W
A thermochemical process in which biomass is converted into liquid bio-oil, solid charcoal, and light gases (H2, CO, CH4, C2H2, C2H4). Depending on the operating conditions (temperature, heating rate, particle size, and solid residence time), pyrolysis can be divided into three subclasses: conventional, fast, or flash. W
Also, pyrolysis.


one quadrillion Btus.


A flowering member of the Brassicacae family and a major global source of vegetable oil. Rapeseed oil is the most common feedstock for biodiesel in Europe, especially in Germany. Canola is a common North American cultivar of rape. W
rapeseed methyl ester (RME
Biodiesel made from rapeseed oil. W
reid vapor pressure (vapor pressure) 
The pressure exerted by the vapors released from any material at a given controlled temperature when enclosed in a laboratory vapor-tight vessel. W
renewable biomass 
biomass that is sustainable through every part of its life cycle.
renewable biodiesel (renewable diesel
Biodiesel from sources that are sustainable.
renewable energy 
Renewable energy sources, or RES, are those energy sources which are not destroyed when their energy is harnessed. Renewable energy sources are distinct from fossil fuels, which must be consumed to release energy. Human use of renewable energy requires technologies that harness natural phenomena, such as sunlight, wind, waves, water flow, biological processes such as anaerobic digestion, biological hydrogen production and geothermal heat. (source:Wikipedia)
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) 
United States
renewable fuel
Renewable fuels are those derived from biomass sources (plants) or from the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy, or other source that does not permanently deplete a resource like oil or coal. (This definition may need work)
Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) 
A regulation requiring refiners, blenders, distributors and importers to sell increasing volumes of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel according to an annual schedule. The U.S Energy Security Act of 2005 requires that the United States consume at least 4 billion gallons of these fuels in 2006, escalating to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. W
Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) 
A UK proposal to require that 5 percent of vehicle fuels used in the nation be derived from renewable sources by 2010. W
Root production method (RPM) 
a system of producing trees in containers that focuses on the root systems of the tree in order to increase the chances of successful outplanting.
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) 


The "process of breaking a complex carbohydrate (as starch or cellulose) into its monosaccharide components." (Source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
second generation fuels (also second generation ligno-cellulosic fuels) 
Biofuels be obtained from ligno-cellulosic or 'woody' sources (such as straw, timber, woodchips or manure). Unlike “first generation” biofuels, which can be produced relatively easily with current technologies, these fibre-rich materials can only be converted into liquid biofuels via advanced technical processes, many of which are still under development. (This definition may need work)
sensitive lands 
separate hydrolysis and fermentation (SHF) 
A two-step process used to convert biomass into alcohol where cellulase enzymes break down cellulose into sugars prior to the introduction of microbes for fermentation. W
short rotation woody crops (SRWC
Generally used to refer to tree crops grown with a short-rotation coppice approach. W
short-rotation coppice (SRC)
A method of tree harvesting where the trees are harvested, and the remaining tree stumps produce vigorous regrowth that is harvested after a prescribed number of years (varying by tree species and crop management priorities). 3-4 harvests may be possible before the trees must be replanted. W
short-rotation forestry (SRF
A forest management strategy using short-rotation coppicing (or tree harvesting and replanting) after a prescribed number of years. W
simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF)
A one-step process used to convert cellulosic biomass into alcohol that combines cellulase enzymes and microbes for fermentation. As enzymes break down cellulose into sugars, microbes ferment these sugars into alcohol. W
small-scale biofuels 
sodium hydroxide 
NaOH, commonly known as lye. A catalyst used to transesterify oils and an alcohol into molecules of methyl ester, or biodiesel. W
soil amendment 
solid wood biomass energy 
Wood (solid wood, tree trimmings, wood chips, sawdust, bark, and shavings) used to produce heating, electricity, or other forms of energy. (source: Mount Wachusett Community College)
sorghum ethanol 
Ethanol produced from the grain sorghum.
soybean methyl ester (SME
Biodiesel derived from soybean oil. W
spark-ignition engines 
Internal combustion engines that use an electronic spark from a spark plug to ignite a compressed mixture of fuel and air. W
splash blending 
Blending of ethanol into gasoline or biodiesel into petroleum diesel at terminals, without active mixing. W
steam-methane reforming (SMR) 
A process that converts methane and light hydrocarbons to carbon monoxide and hydrogen using steam and a nickel catalyst. The reforming reactions are endothermic (they absorb heat, rather than producing heat); as a result, heat must be supplied to SMR reactors, typically by a furnace surrounding a tube bundle packed with nickel catalyst where the reforming reactions occur. W
The dried stalks and leaves of a cereal crop, currently used as fodder after the grain has been harvested and a potential feedstock for cellulosic ethanol (source: Corn stover includes "corncobs, husks, leaves, stalks and other leftovers from harvesting."[1]
straight vegetable oil (SVO) 
Known as Pure plant oil (PPO) in the European Union, SVO refers to either virgin or waste vegetable oils used to fuel diesel engines. While some diesel engines can run on SVO without modification, steps must be taken to address problems in colder climates, since it is generally more viscous than petrodiesel and has a higher freezing point. W
sugar beet 
A temperate zone root vegetable (Beta vulgaris L.) noted for its high sucrose content, and which can be used as a feedstock for production of ethanol.
sugar cane (also sugarcane
A tall temperate and tropical grass of the genus Saccharum, a close relative of bamboo, used for production of sugar and ethanol.
sulfur oxide (SOx) 
The term for a group of compounds composed of sulfur and oxygen. SO x, released in the burning of fuels, is a leading contributor to acid rain and can cause severe human health issues in high concentrations. W
Synthetic diesel obtained by using the Fischer-Tropsch Process on synthesis gas produced from biomass. May refer to a brand name product from Choren Industries. (source: Choren Industries) (This definition may need work):
sustainable biofuel 
A prairie grass native to North America that holds considerable promise as a feedstock for cellulosic conversion into ethanol. W
synfuel hydrocarbons 
Synthetic fuel or synfuel is any liquid fuel obtained from coal, natural gas, or biomass. It can sometimes refer to fuels derived from other solids such as oil shale, tar sand, waste plastics, or from the fermentation of biomass. It can also (less often) refer to gaseous fuels produced in a similar way. The process of producing synfuels is often referred to as Coal-To-Liquids (CTL), Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) or Biomass-To-Liquids (BTL), depending on the initial feedstock. The best known synthesis process is the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. (source:Wikipedia)
synthesis gas (syngas)
A mixture of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane created during the gasification process of heating biomass in the presence of air, oxygen, or steam. Syngas can be converted to a variety of fuels including hydrogen, methanol, dimethyl ether, and Fischer-Tropsch liquids. W


terawatt hour (TWh) 
A unit of produced energy equal to 1012 MWh. W
tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) 
An additive to gasoline introduced to reduce engine knocking and increase efficiency and octane ratings. TEL creates lead as a highly toxic pollutant in engine exhausts and has been phased out of most vehicle fuels worldwide. W
thermal depolymerization (TDP) 
Thermal depolymerization (TDP) is a process for the reduction of complex organic materials (usually waste products of various sorts, often known as biomass and plastic) into light crude oil. It mimics the natural geological processes thought to be involved in the production of fossil fuels. Under pressure and heat, long chain polymers of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons with a maximum length of around 18 carbons.
a unit of weight equal to 2000 pounds.
a mild pyrolysis done in a low oxygen environment. Torrefaction liberates water, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hemicellulose leaving cellulose and lignin.
traditional biofuels 
"firewood, agrowaste, dungcakes, etc." used traditionally for heating or cooking. [2]
A reaction to transform one ester into a different ester. The process used to transform natural oil into biodiesel by chemically combining the natural oil with an alcohol (such as methanol or ethanol). W
transportation biofuels 
Biofuels used to power cars, buses and other vehicles, as opposed to biofuels used directly in the production of electricity or heat such as biogas. (This definition may need work)
treated biogas (TB) 
Gas that has been treated to remove hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and water (which can corrode fuel systems, engines, and burners). W
tree-based oilseeds 
Oil seeds grown by trees, such as jatropha, that show promise as feedstock for biodiesel production. W
Ethanol produced from tree-based biomass.
turkey offal 
Waste parts of butchered turkeys. Like other agricultural wastes it can be converted into oil through thermal depolymerization (TDP). Turkey offal is the main feedstock at the first commercial TDP plant, run by Renewable Environmental Solutions, LLC.



vegetable oil 
The residue liquid from the distillation of ethanol, rich in potassium and organic matter. Used as a fertilizer and irrigation liquid to increase sugar cane crop yields. W
volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Organic compounds comprised of carbon and hydrogen that easily vaporize into the atmosphere. VOCs can pollute soil and groundwater, and in the presence of sunlight they react with NOx to form tropospheric ozone, a respiratory irritant. W
Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC)
U.S. legislation enacted in 2004 that establishes federal tax credits for the blending, distribution, and sale of E10, E85, and biodiesel. Each gallon of renewable fuel sold through the end of 2010 will receive a tax credit of $0.51 cents. W


waste biomass 
includes "sugarcane bagasse, rice hulls, orchard prunings, wheat straw, and forest thinnings." [3]
waste cooking oil (WCO)
used to produce biodiesel.
well-to-wheels analysis
A life-cycle analysis of fuels that measures the efficiencies and impacts of various energy sources.
wet mill
A type of starch-ethanol mill where grains are steeped in solutions of water and acid to break them down into separate products, such as oils, proteins, and purified starch. Wet-milling operations are more complex and generally larger than dry-milling operations, but offer a greater variety of byproducts, including high protein animal feeds, high fructose corn syrup, and biomaterial feedstock. W
wood biomass 
(also woody biomass).
woody crop 






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