Sustainable First and Second Generation Bioethanol for Europe

Last September, Waste2Fuels had the pleasure to participate in the Sustainable First and Second Generation Bioethanol for Europe event.

In the context of discussion on REDII, the conference provided an overview on pros and cons related to the first and the second generation of bioethanol, focusing on the GHG emission reduction and decarbonisation of transports. Joachim Lutz from Cropenergies, stressed the need for Europe to use both conventional and advanced biofuels in order to reach the climate goals.

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Olivier Dubois form FAO debunked the myth of “food vs fuels”stating that sustainable production of biofuels is complex and they should be considered as an opportunity for responsible investment in sustainable agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy.

Strong attention has been devoted to a comprehensive sustainability assessment from Nova Institute. A detailed study, showing that the first generation of biofuels is sustainable as the second generation in terms of GHG reductionhas been presented during the event. The study is based on the analysis of twelve different sustainability criteria, selected on the basis of the most current standards and certification systems of bio-based fuels and materials, including a wide range of environmental, social and economic aspects. IMG-5603The report analyses the strength and weaknesses of all biomass feedstocks for bioethanol production by criteria such as GHG footprint, GHG abatement costs, land use efficiency, food security, protein-rich co-products, employment, rural development, livelihood of famers and foresters, LUC / iLUC, logistic, infrastructure, availability, traceability, social impacts, biodiversity and air and soil quality.


Source: Nova Institute

Second generation biofuels seems to perform better than the first generation in terms of the reduction of GHG emissions. Biofuels made from any kind of feedstock provide advantages in terms of GHG emission reductions and should be vectors of a viable transitional strategy towards low-emission mobility, as long as they adhere to sustainability criteria.


For more information, please check the related website.



Insights from the biofuel world


Last summer the SFT (Sustainable Transport Forum) approved the Final Report elaborated by the Sub-Group on Advanced Biofuels, which consists of 32 industry experts representing all advanced biofuels value chains and transport sectors, such as aviation and maritime. The mandate of the Sub-Group was to develop strategies facilitating the deployment and use of advanced biofuels in the EU and thus support the accomplishment of the policy objectives of the Clean Power for  Transport Strategy, the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework and Energy Union Strategy. Indeed, while European technology developers are playing the leading role as well as fuels producers, the market is still fragmented and affected by uncertainties at both EU and Member States levels. It is unquestionable that there is a concern, especially amongst small and medium size fuel suppliers that, in reality, such a single market Captureprova defdoes not exist for biofuels.

Still, these market operators feel that they have  to operate in a fragmented market confronted with many different rules in a great number of Member States.

At present, transport consumes one third of all energy used within the EU and generates one quarter of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The GHG emissions from transport are expected to constitute a larger share of the overall EU GHG emissions, up to over 40% in 2050, thereby also becoming the dominant sector in terms of GHG emissions.

Biofuels could technically substitute oil in all transport modes, with existing power train technologies and refuelling infrastructures. In particular, the main advantages of liquid biofuels are their high energy density and the compatibility with existing vehicles and fuel distribution infrastructure, up to certain limits in concentration.

In this context, the industry is the key developer of innovative technologies and responsible to bringing them from the lab scale to market deployment, and at the same time is the main investor that can build these state-of-the-art plants and achieve significant GHG reductions in transport. The advanced biofuels industry can contribute between 6% and 9% of total EU transport energy needs by 2030 from sustainable biofuels; but this goal can only be achieved if some requirements are fulfilled.

A stable EU policy framework between 2020 and 2030, which also gives a planning horizon sufficiently beyond 2030 for those who will invest should be defined. In order to foster the decarbonisation and energy diversification of the EU transport sector, REDII introduced an obligation on European transport fuel suppliers to provide an increasing share of renewable and low-carbon fuels, including advanced biofuels, renewable transport fuels of non-biological origin (e.g. hydrogen), waste-based fuels and renewable electricity. Nevertheless, a long-term policy to be stable and effective shall be compatible with the investment in terms of sustainability, competitiveness and innovation need to be more strongly established in order to ensure investor confidence. From this point of view, the REDII looks very modest in terms of impact as it does not seem to provide any confidence to the industry that it will be an effective tool in meeting the EU policies in decarbonising transport.

Finally, dedicated financial mechanisms and instruments need to be developed for the advanced fuels to facilitate technology development and market deployment and mandatory obligations should be established for advanced biofuels and low carbon fossil fuels, given the different level of maturity of the technologies.  So far, a lack of long term stable legislation hindered the development of promising routes to reach demonstration and commercial deployment stage. This is particularly true in the case for capital intensive technologies. A wide range of different value chains are being demonstrated at industrial scale, which differ in conversion technology, the feedstocks used, the process employed and the resulting liquid fuels; but the compartmentalisation of the EU biofuels market has led to a malfunctioning market situation and trade barriers among the Member States. These uncertainties on the market situation are still a common obstacle to overcome in order to achieve its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target.

Without an appropriate policy framework and financing structure, the transport decarbonisation target, to which the industry can substantially contribute , risks not to be meet by the 2030.

News from the world of biofuels

2017 most likely will be a turning point in the implementation of the Energy Union objectives and the 2030 climate and Energy package. Several initiatives are in place as the new Renewable Energy Directive for the period after 2020-2030, an updated EU Bioenergy Sustainability Policy. But do not forget commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, together with the Biofuels Directive 2003 and the Fuel Quality Directive , is one of the main pillars of biofuels policy. The Directive set legally binding targets for Member States to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020.
On November 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive within a broader Clean Energy package of proposals. The ultimate goal of the proposal is to increase the share of renewable energy sources in the overall energy mix to at least 27 % by 2030, whilst ensuring that the EU becomes the world leader in renewable energy. This binding target will be fulfilled through individual Member States’ contributions guided by the need to deliver collectively for the EU.
Decarbonisation of transport through development of advanced biofuels and definition of the role of food-based biofuels after 2020 are among the main challenges identified by the Commission.The revised Renewable Energy Directive introduces an obligation on European transport fuel suppliers to provide an increasing share of renewable and low-carbon fuels, including advanced biofuels, renewable transport fuels of non-biological origin (e.g. hydrogen), waste-based fuels and renewable electricity. At the same time, to minimize the Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) impacts, introduces a cap on the contribution of food-based biofuels towards the EU renewable energy target, starting at 7% in 2021 and going down progressively to 3.8% in 2030.The revised Renewable Energy Directive also strengthens the existing EU criteria for bioenergy sustainability. The Commission is committed to make the biomass for energy sustainable, improving sustainability criteria for biofuels, requiring that (new) advanced biofuels emit at least 70% fewer GHG emissions than fossil fuels.
The proposal has been referred to the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, where the work is still at preparatory phase.