EU biodiesel production grows, UK meets sustainability goals

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 09, 2009
Posted July 15, 2009

Two reports issued from the United Kingdom's Renewable Fuels Agency and the European Biodiesel Board this week give a snapshot of the European biofuels industry.

EBB reports biodiesel numbers

The European Biodiesel Board released figures showing the European Union biodiesel production
totaled 7.7 million metric tons (approximately 3 billion gallons) in 2008, comprising 78 percent of the biofuels consumed in the EU. The EBB estimates the EU is responsible for 65 percent of the world's biodiesel output.

The organization reiterated its stand that the EU biodiesel industry was hurt by U.S. biodiesel imports in analyzing recent production trends. "EBB statistics for 2008 and 2009 show that at least 50 percent of existing plants remain idle," the report said. The number of biodiesel plants stands at 276 as of July 2009 with close to 21 million metric tons (over 8 billion gallons) of installed capacity. The 36.7 percent increase in 2008 biodiesel production compared to 2007 indicates a continued slowing of growth in the industry, which had seen production increases in 2005 and 2006 of 65 percent and 54 percent respectively.

The EBB said the recent growth in biodiesel production is not sufficient to meet "the ambitious EU objective for climate change mitigation outlined in the recently published Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28." The EBB estimates the 10 percent renewable content for the transport sector will require the production of 30 to 35 million metric tons (12 to 14 billion gallons) of biodiesel by 2020. The EBB called for completion of standards for B10 as soon as possible as an essential step in reaching the 10 percent target. As the EU's Renewable Energy Directive is implemented in each of the member states, the EBB emphasized the need for coordinated sustainability requirements. "Let us not lose sight of the fact that EU biodiesel is already today produced in a sustainable way."

UK meets GHG reduction goals

The United Kingdom beat its target of 2.5 percent biofuel content in transportation fuels, according to provisional data released July 15 by the Renewable Fuels Agency . The biofuel content was 82 percent biodiesel, 18 percent ethanol plus a very small quantity of biogas. The RFA reported the results from the first year of reporting on biofuels supplied to retail outlets under the UK Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. A final report will be issued later this year following verification.

The Renewable Fuels Agency was established in 2007 to administrate the RTFO which establishes sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for the United Kingdom. According to the RFA statement, the most challenging target for companies was that 30 percent of biofuels should meet environmental sustainability standards. "Although many companies have risen to the challenge, others have still not reported any demonstrably sustainable fuel," the RFA said. "Overall, 24 percent of fuel reached the required level." The agency estimated the biofuels supplied delivered a 47 percent reduction in GHG compared to fossil fuels, exceeding the 40 percent target, although indirect emissions were not incorporated into the life-cycle analysis.

The RTFO is helping to drive the development of a sustainable biofuels market in the UK where 99 percent of the feedstocks supplied by UK agriculture meets the standard. While the UK has a well-established sustainability program, many other countries do not, said Aaron Berry, the RFA's head of carbon and sustainability. "Progress by projects such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the Better Sugarcane Initiative show reason for optimism," he said, "as does the commitment of those companies that have undertaken their own sustainability audits."
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