Biopropane opportunity appraisal & deployment pathway

Having considerable expertise in biofuels and bioenergy, in summer 2019 NNFCC were successful in securing a contract to examine the potential for BioLPG production and use as a fuel in the UK.

BioLPG (biopropane) is a renewable and sustainable alternative to conventional LPG produced from fossil fuels. On behalf of its membership, Liquid Gas UK (formerly UKLPG) commissioned NNFCC to assess the potential for biopropane produced or sourced for use in the UK, and to determine whether there is a credible pathway for biopropane supply that satisfies deep decarbonisation objectives for heating by the 2040s. The review considered the following areas:

  • Market opportunities
  • Supply chain potential, including:
    • Review of technologies for bioLPG production
    • Assessment of feedstock availability
  • Deployment potential and action plan

LPG consists mostly of propane; a by-product of the distillation of crude oil. By producing propane from biomass, BioLPG can replace fossil LPG in the same applications with much lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. NNFCC drew upon previous experience of market analysis and applied the same skills to identify key market opportunities for BioLPG. Being such a versatile fuel with excellent properties, NNFCC pinpointed numerous potential avenues including in the petrochemicals industry, but also in everything from road transport and home heating to mobile cooking and forklift trucks.

In road transport, NNFCC found that converting a car from petrol to LPG can save almost 20% in greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre and when using BioLPG the saving can increase to as much as 90%. Like other gaseous fuels, bioLPG has other co-benefits too such as low emissions of particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). It can also be used in fuel cells and range extenders for electric vehicles, complimenting efforts to electrify transport and supporting long term decarbonisation targets.

With an in-depth technical knowledge of biofuels production, the NNFCC team were able to identify the most promising technologies to supply the UK market. Currently most BioLPG is produced from just one process; as a by-product in the production of hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), a type of biodiesel. However, NNFCC identified a number of other potential production routes that may be more commercially viable for the LPG industry in the long term. NNFCC critically compared multiple technologies including gasification, pyrolysis, aqueous phase reforming and fermentation and produced a roadmap to achieve 100% BioLPG by 2040. NNFCC’s report contains several useful technology factsheets on the different pathways for the production of bioLPG.

As shown in the report, BioLPG has great potential in the UK across multiple sectors and there are an assortment of key strengths and investment opportunities to grow the UK market and reduce dependency on imports.