Thursday, November 17, 2011

Study: Meeting green transport targets may need £895m biofuels spend- Businessgreen mobile

Subject: Study: Meeting green transport targets may need £895m biofuels spend

Government research body says next generation biofuels made from waste are a feasible low carbon option
The UK could miss its renewable transport targets unless it spends £900m over the next 20 years on advanced biofuels, a government-commissioned study said today.

Growing demand for biofuels has proved highly controversial, critics claiming that fuels made from energy crops have led indirectly to deforestation and driven up food prices.

But the new report from the NNFCC, the UK's National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, said that new, more sustainable biofuel technologies can play a key role in ensuring that the government meets its commitment to sourcing 10 per cent of the energy used in UK road and rail transport from renewable sources by 2020.

The report explained that conventional sources of biofuel, such as vegetable oil, are likely to be in short supply in the future as the heat and power sectors compete with aviation and road transport to secure access to biodiesel. The NNFCC estimates that, as a result, conventional biofuels will produce only 3.7 to 6.6 per cent of the energy needed in road and rail transport by 2020.

However, the report added that advanced techniques for producing biofuel from waste, such as gasification and pyrolysis, are now at a point where they can start to produce the necessary quantities of fuel from sustainable sources, including household waste, wood and straw.

The greatest potential is in diesel and aviation fuels produced from syngas, bioethanol produced by the fermentation of syngas, and biobutanol produced by fermentation, the report said.

These sources avoid the problems presented by conventional energy crops which compete for agricultural land and have been blamed for forcing up food prices.

The NNFCC said that advanced biofuels could meet up to 4.3 per cent of the UK's 10 per cent renewable transport fuel target by 2020 and save 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 each year, equivalent to taking nearly a million cars off the road.

But it predicted that this scenario requires an investment of £895m in eight production plants, which would require around one million tonnes of woody biomass, two million tonnes of wheat and 4.4 million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial waste.

Under a more modest scenario, £139m could be spent on four plants, which could create enough fuel to contribute 2.1 per cent towards the target and save 1.6 million tonnes of CO2eq.

The International Energy Agency said earlier this year that biofuels could make up more than a quarter of all transport fuel by 2050, but again this would require an enormous spend of up to $13tn (£8tn).

Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, chief executive of the NNFCC, explained that, while electric cars can also help decarbonise the sector, biofuels are "currently the best way" to decrease the UK's carbon emissions from transport.

"The UK has ambitious carbon reduction plans and this report highlights the necessity for increased investment in advanced biofuels, which could meet almost half of our renewable transport needs by the end of the decade," he said.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said the report "adds to the evidence base that we will use in setting policy to meet the 2020 targets."

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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