U.K. tracks biofuels, tweaks legislation

By Anna Austin | September 16, 2008
The U.K. Renewable Fuels Agency has released its first monthly report on the supply of biofuels under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. The RTFO was implemented April 15, and requires refiners, importers and others who supply more than 450,000 liters (118,890 gallons) of fossil-based transport fuel annually to use 2.5 percent biofuels. That number is to increase by 1.25 percent each year in order to reach 5 percent in 2010.

The report, which covers the first month the RTFO went into effect, found that 19 percent of the U.K.'s biofuels met environmental standards, compared with this year's target of 30 percent. Greenhouse gases (GHG) were reduced 42 percent, but that figure excludes emissions from indirect changes in land use, a factor considered in a report, titled "Review of the Indirect Effects of Biofuels." Released by the RTFO in July and informally referred to as the Gallagher Review, the report explored the indirect effects of biofuels production pertaining to GHG emissions, land-use change and the effect of biofuels on food prices.

The RTFO supply report also found that the market has been dominated by imports, and that each feedstock has been identified for nearly 90 percent of biofuels, while both feedstock and country of origin are known for 57 percent. The most widely reported feedstock was American soy oil for biodiesel at 22 percent.

The Renewable Fuels Agency plans to publish updated data throughout the year.

Shortly after the report was released, the U.K. Environment Agency, established in October 2007 as part of the RTFO, issued a new quality protocol, which would allow U.K. biodiesel producers to commercially convert waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats into biodiesel without having to treat biodiesel as waste. The protocol was developed by the Environment Agency, and the Waste and Resources Action Program, under the Waste Protocols Project. The amendments to the document, which was introduced in October 2007, will redefine the stage at which biodiesel is no longer considered a waste product, changing its classification and requirement to adhere to standard waste regulations.

The reasoning behind the original legislation was that infectious agents burnt during combustion in animal-derived oils could lead to humans contracting transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, such as scrapie in sheep, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, known as Mad Cow Disease. Defra Animal Health has since confirmed there was no evidence of a greater risk to the environment or humans from using waste vegetable oil or animal fat to make biodiesel, compared with virgin oil.
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