The transport sector consumes 31% of total energy use in
Europe. Today European governments seek to significantly lower our society’s
dependence on fossil resources and reduce GHG emissions, namely by increasing
the share of biofuels being used. The EU's Renewable Energy Directive requires
that 10% of transport fuel should be renewable by 2020, as well as a 10%
reduction of GHG intensity in fuel consumption by 2020.
Biofuels are liquid or gaseous fuels derived from biomass. They
are regarded a key component in the effort to use renewable feedstocks to
create a low carbon economy. Currently, the most widely produced biofuels are
ethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol is obtained from the fermentation of
sugar-rich feedstocks (e.g. sugar and starch from sugar cane, wheat, sugar
beets or lignocellulosic biomass such as forestry residues, agricultural
residues or energy crops). Whereas, biodiesel is from the transesterification
of glyceride present in vegetable oil (e.g. rapeseed and sunflower oil). The
use of biogas as a transport fuel is also an option, which is being trialled
and deployed across the UK. Other biofuels include methanol, dimethyl ether and
liquid synthetic hydrocarbons (all obtained via biomass gasification).
In order to avoid any negative impact derived from the
introduction of biofuels, the EU Energy and Climate Package includes
Sustainability Criteria. These forbid the use of biodiverse or high carbon
stock value land and require a minimum GHG saving to be reached. All of the
above needs to be taken into account when building supply chains for biofuels
production. NNFCC has played an active role in the development of these
criteria and their translation into UK policy; having also worked with biofuel
producers to develop sustainable supply chains and bespoke GHG calculators to
ensure the criteria are met.
Research & Development
Research is focussed on the design of more sustainable
processes and feedstocks resulting in biofuels which further reduce GHGs and
minimise land-use change impacts. This is important to mitigate issues related
to food security, food prices and biodiversity. R&D efforts are focused on
advanced processes making use of fractionated lignocellulose obtained following
pre-treatment of agri-food wastes, residues and fast-growing plants (e.g.
poplar trees, switchgrass). As a result, the variety and quantity of feedstocks
suitable for biofuels production will be improved. In order to provide better
conversion efficiencies, new pre-treatment techniques and innovative enzymatic
processes are being investigated.
Work on the development of pilot-plants for the production
of biomass derived syngas is also on-going. The individual steps for
production of liquid synthetic hydrocarbons are well known (e.g. gasification,
Fisher-Tropsch), however their integration at commercial scale is unproven.
The biofuels market is constantly changing. NNFCC has worked
on the topic of biofuels extensively, providing market analysis, techno-economic
assessments, identification of investment opportunities and work on the
regulatory framework. We have produced high quality technical studies on biofuels for over a decade, working with the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC, now BEIS) and commercial biofuel producers. NNFCC staff also actively participate in many high
profile working groups and committees to inform and influence policy decisions
in this area.
Below is a list of relevant projects NNFCC has delivered in
For reports and our monthly review of news from the biofuels
sector, see our publications store.