Biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers work to find the best, most cost-effective way of turning feedstocks into biofuels.
Biofuels are defined as fuels composed of or produced from biological raw materials which are commonly referred to as feedstocks. First-generation biofuels are made from biomass such as sugars and starches. Second-generation biofuels, known as cellulosic biofuels, are made from nonfood materials. Some researches show that cellulosic biofuels may be better for the environment than the first generation biofuels. However, production of biofuels is still expensive compared with the cost of making traditional gasoline. Biofuel technology and product development managers work to develop additional feedstocks that could be used to make biofuels, along with production processes that are safe for the environment and affordable on a large scale.
Biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers main responsibility is to conduct research to breed or develop energy crops with improved biomass yield, environmental adaptability, pest resistance, production efficiency, bioprocessing characteristics, or reduced environmental impacts. They oversee biodiesel/biofuels prototyping or development projects. Based on findings from applied biofuels or biomass research projects, they propose new biofuels products, processes, technologies or applications.
As part of their job, biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers analyze data from biofuels studies, such as fluid dynamics, water treatments, or solvent extraction and recovery processes. They conduct experiments on biomass or pretreatment technologies. Based on the results of their experiments, they develop methods to estimate the efficiency of biomass pretreatments. Biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers also conduct experiments to test new or alternate feedstock fermentation processes.
Biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers design chemical conversion processes, such as etherification, esterification, interesterification, transesterification, distillation, hydrogenation, oxidation or reduction of fats and oils, and vegetable oil refining. They design or conduct applied biodiesel or biofuels research projects on topics such as transport, thermodynamics, mixing, filtration, distillation, fermentation, extraction, and separation. They also design or execute solvent or product recovery experiments in laboratory or field settings.
Most Biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers work in offices or laboratories. They conduct experiments, document their results, and maintain various instruments. They may also need to conduct work in a biofuel production plant. While working at a biofuel production plant, biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers must follow a number of standard operating procedures and abide by all safety protocols. They must wear safety equipment, such as gloves or goggles.
To enter these renewable energy generation jobs as biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers, it is required a bachelor’s degree from a program that includes both coursework and laboratory hours. A scientist who is leading a research team or conducting independent research may need a master’s or a doctoral degree. This occupation may require a background in Environmental Science or Biotechnology.
Analytical skills are important for those conducting experiments and determining an outcome or a reasonable way to continue an experiment. Biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers also need oral and written communication skills because they often work as part of a team and must effectively communicate the results of their analysis to others. In addition, they must be detail-oriented when conducting experiments and recording data.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a bright outlook for biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development managers and expects employment of this field to grow from 3 to 9 percent from 2010 until 2020; a little slower than the average for all green jobs. The BLS projected 49,700 biofuels/biodiesel technology and product development manager job openings between 2010 and 2020, and noted 177,000 jobs are currently filled. The BLS further reports that the median annual wage for salaried biomass power plant manager was $124,870 in 2012 with median hourly wage of $60.03. Wages and benefits vary by employer and geographic location.