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Biofuels: the elephant in the room?

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Taking a turn away from refining at the ERTC, Szalkowska began a discussion on biofuel policy in the EU.

Biofuel roles
Szalkowska began by listing roles biofuels were supposed to play and these included;

  • Reduction on independence on imported oil.
  • Economic growth.
  • GHG reduction.
  • Local security of energy.
  • Reduction in transmission loses.

Because so many roles are placed on biofuels and so much is expected of them, is EU strategy trying to tackle too many problems at the same time with one single tool?

What to address
When it comes to energy security, Szalkowska said that biofuels are rocky ground for energy security. But there are currently negotiations to challenge legislation around biofuels that will help combat this attitude. The legislation will be looking at non-food material production of first generation biofuels, which is at the moment ‘the elephant in the room.’ Also, the indirect impact on land needs to be addressed.

Germany versus the UK
Germany has the most stable biofuels market in Europe. There are large quantities of domestically produced feedstocks which take the form of rapeseed which helps the production incredibly however, it doesn’t have a market that adapts quickly so not all is perfect in the country.

When it comes to the UK, things have been looked at a bit more sensibly. The original biofuel blending mandate of 5% by 2010 has been postponed to 2013. Also, the UK is home to flexible feedstocks so the country is better prepared to deal with changing legislation and mandates if and when they occur.

Ethanol and biodiesel
When it comes to ethanol, Szalkowska believes that Asia and Europe will be dependent on imports mainly from Brazil until at least 2025. The exports from the US will be questionable due to sustainability requirements as most US ethanol is corn ethanol.

When it comes to biodiesel, Europe is to be a major consumer to 2025 and Szalkowska suggested that it will be able to absorb inventories of the product from all over the globe. However, there may be sustainability and import impacts to consider.

Biofuels are going to help diversify the energy mix, but they are not in a position to solve all the problems they are presented at one time. Biofuels need one primary goal to achieve. Also, there are not just social and environmental developments to consider, but also the matters of money.

Yet, Szalkowska finished her presentation by saying, ‘some doors close but others open.’ So, biofuels may be able to help energy sustainability in a big way. We just have to wait and see.

Written by Claira Lloyd

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