Industry explores biofuel feedstock alternatives as shortage fears mount

Supply shortage challenges progress to meet ambitious renewable targets

Biofuel industry participants have underlined the importance of considering alternative feedstocks in order to meet ever more ambitious mandates and targets against a backdrop of mounting supply-side shortages as the globe works towards climate goals.

Speaking on a panel at the Argus Biofuels Europe event in London on Wednesday, managing director of bioenergy at Cargill Alexis Cazin told delegates that the industry “needs to keep an open mind” when it comes to considering new and available feedstocks.

“In Europe, we have a tendency to say everything that comes from agriculture is bad because you are having to start the wheel,” he said.

The crop versus fuel debate resurfaced earlier this year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - two key agricultural producers - and centered on whether crop-based biofuel production was contributing to a global food crisis.

Cazin added that the fears don’t seem to be as prevalent in the US or in Asia, “but in Europe, yes.”

Biofuels industry lobbies have for some time rejected assertions that crop-based biofuels are driving up food prices and causing shortages, although trade association Fediol previously said rapeseed oil supply in Europe has been diverted to food supply and away from biofuels.

“Today there is a clear hunt for sustainable feedstocks, and not all big companies and users have access to stocks in China to collect UCO or to Indonesia for palm or tallow supplies,” he said, adding that “this is becoming a real issue.”

He warned that the industry has to ensure it doesn’t miss an opportunity when it comes to regenerative agriculture.

“For example, initiatives to plant on degraded land and soils that are not cultivated for food but can bring feedstock for the energy industry – this will be a win-win for farmers, carbon capture and the decarbonization of fuels,” Cazin said.

Challenges in the shipping sector

Meanwhile, for the harder-to-abate sector of shipping, global head of renewable fuels trading at Moller-Maersk Urszula Uszko said that “looking beyond biomass-based solutions at something like e-fuels will [help to] overcome a lot of the more medium-term feedstock challenges the industry faces today.”

“In shipping, the quality we can use is lower than what road transport needs, so there are feedstocks out there not suitable for cars but that can be used in ship engines, which creates new opportunities,” she said.

Industry competing for feedstock supply

Speaking on a separate panel, analyst from the Swedish Energy Agency David Helsing told delegates that competition for feedstock was ramping up in Sweden as producers of different fuels and a lot of other sectors are “going for biofuel feedstocks”, particularly the biochemicals and bioplastics sectors.

“We have seen demand for liquid fuels in Sweden go down due to electrification and the fact that people are driving less,” he said, adding, however, that the country will still need more biofuels by 2030 “and so we’ll need something to take care of the feedstock issue.”

“While we welcome higher goals from the EU, it’s important to think about the availability of these feedstocks,” he said.

Feedstock supply awareness has been mounting as countries like the US “now use their own feedstocks” to produce biofuels, an executive from the Renewable Energy Group said, adding that he expects China “to do the same.”

Atlantic trading director at Amsterdam-based Olyx Oscar Greven told the conference on Thursday that the industry needs to consider “a new way for biofuels,” including gasification, which will “create new inflows of biofuel.”

Areas to consider in more depth include woody biomass and manure, which are markets that can still grow significantly. However, he said this remained less applicable to UCO markets. At the same time, delegates on a brokering panel agreed that new technologies were necessary to unlock feedstock that cannot be processed today in current plants.

Legislation

Last month, MEPs backed proposals that the share of advanced biofuels and biogas produced from the feedstock listed in Part A of Annex IX in the energy supplied to the transport sector should be at least 0.5 % in 2025 and 2.2% in 2030.

Lobbies that support the use of feedstocks based on wood waste expressed dismay that MEPs voted for restrictions on what was termed as “primary forest fuels”, which includes logging residues from clearings and thinnings, as well as discarded wood and stumps.

It said the decision, if adopted in the final legislation, would mean there would be a cap on these fuels at 2022 levels and would then be reduced for the remainder of the decade.

MEPs rejected amendments, however, that would have placed further restrictions on European crop-based biofuels, which are already capped at a maximum of 7% of member States’ road and rail fuel requirements, in-line with ITRE’s rejection in July of extra curbs.

Later in September, meanwhile, producers of waste-based biodiesel in Europe called on policymakers to work towards a fair regulatory framework, which ensures an equal promotion of waste lipid feedstock across aviation, maritime and road transport in response to the EU’s ReFuelEU (Fit for 55) proposal.

The European Waste-based & Advanced Biofuels Association (EWABA) said the Fit-for-55 approach could lead to an “unintended mass diversion of feedstock from road/maritime to aviation to produce fuel for planes.”

What to read next
Transportation issues and vigorous competition from Brazilian growers challenge US sales
California Low Carbon Fuel Standard quarterly update
According to official customs data, the country has exported the largest corn volume on record, while its soybean exports lag behind
Cold spells followed by warmer periods could impact quality of crops
New government regulation due to be approved in March to multiply public and private sector initiatives
Low stocks set the country on course to import
We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
Proceed