EPA releases data on canola biodiesel pathway

By Luke Geiver | July 13, 2010
Posted July 20, 2010

The U.S. EPA has released a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) for its recent modeling of the canola oil biodiesel pathway. As of March 26, when the EPA officially announced the final rule for the revised renewable fuel standard (RFS2), the canola pathway had not been analyzed as a biofuel feedstock capable of meeting the required greenhouse gas reduction standards set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Using the same RFS2 lifecycle analysis modeling approach for other biofuels already approved, the EPA stated that the canola oil biodiesel pathway creates a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to the diesel fuel baseline.

"These results, if finalized, would justify authorizing the generation of biomass-based diesel RINs for fuel produced by the canola oil biodiesel pathway modeled, assuming that the fuel meets the other definitional criteria for renewable fuel (e.g., produced from renewable biomass, and used to reduce or replace transportation fuel) specified in EISA," EPA said in the NODA memo.

EPA analyzed canola oil as a feedstock "assuming the same biodiesel production facility designs and conversion efficiencies as modeled for biodiesel produced from soybean oil." To assess the impact of producing biodiesel from canola oil, the EPA also created a control case projection estimating 200 million gallons of canola-based biodiesel per year by 2022. "While we recognize that some canola oil has historically been used to make biodiesel for domestic use," EPA said, "this range of production (zero to 200 million gallons) covers the range of production likely by 2022." To create the projection, the EPA used a number of factors including historical volumes, potential feedstock availability and competitive uses, potential increases in crop acreage and potential increases in crop and conversion yields.

"As with other EPA analyses of fuel pathways with a significant land use impact, the proposed analysis for canola oil biodiesel includes a best estimate as well as a range of possible lifecycle greenhouse gas emission results based on formal uncertainty analysis conducted by the agency," EPA also noted.

Higher yield improvements, which could show a greater reduction of land use impacts and improve projected GHG performance of canola-based biodiesel, were given by industry members to the EPA, but not used for the analysis. "As was the case for analyses of other crop-based biofuels," the agency noted, "EPA projected increases in canola crop yield based on long-term trends. Yield improvement rates recommended by industry were higher and were based on recent shorter term trends."

EPA's analysis included the Forestry and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model (FASOM) and the Food and Agricultural Policy and Research Institute international models maintained by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (FAPRI-CARD). For key model inputs and assumptions (e.g., crop yields, biofuel conversion yields, and agricultural engery use), EPA has also provided a docket of information accompanying the NODA. The information included in the docket was generated by peer-reviewed literature and reflects expert recommendations from the canola and biodiesel industries considered by EPA. For 30 days, effective from the publication date in the federal register, the EPA will accept comments on the proposed lifecycle assessment of canola oil biodiesel.

Click here to view the NODA.
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