Fuel consumption

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.

NNFCC Support

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 this sector. 

For reports and our monthly review of news from the biofuels sector, see our publications store.