Transport fuel sector claims lion’s share of 2021 EU ethanol production

According to ethanol trade group ePure, the majority of European renewable ethanol production went to transportation use in 2021

The majority of renewable ethanol produced in Europe in 2021 went towards transportation use, new data from European ethanol trade group ePure has shown.

Approximately 84.2% of total renewable ethanol production last year went towards the fuel sector, ePure said on Tuesday, while 9.4% was dedicated to industrial use, including hand sanitizer, and 6.4% was for food and beverage production.

That said, approximately 4.48 million tonnes of animal feed co-products were manufactured from Europe’s ethanol production, while renewable ethanol production in 2021 stood at 4.40 million tonnes.

Additional co-products included 1.05 million tonnes of captured biogenic CO2, which replaces fossil CO2 in beverage and greenhouse applications, ePure said.

The lobby said that the figures “confirm[ed] importance of domestic ethanol biorefineries to food security and energy independence.”

According to the trade group, greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 77% in 2021 on average compared with fossil petrol, thus underlining ethanol’s key role in the decarbonization of transport by reducing emissions from petrol and hybrid cars “that will predominate on Europe’s roads for many years.”

Meanwhile, ePURE, which represents 20 ethanol producers, said that ethanol production in 2021 required less than 1.8 million hectares (Mha) of European arable land, equivalent to only 1.7% of the total arable land of EU27 and the UK.

On the food versus fuel debate

“These new figures confirm that when it comes to European renewable ethanol, the ‘food vs fuel’ myth is and always has been false,” said ePURE Director General David Carpintero.

“EU biorefineries turn sustainably grown European crops and residues into food, feed and renewable fuel,” Carpintero said, adding that capping the use of such sustainable crop-based biofuels would have “dire consequences for Europe’s goals for energy independence, food security and emissions-reduction.”

The figures come several months after the resurfacing of a global food vs fuel debate, which explored whether crop-based biofuel production was contributing to a global food crisis.

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.

Meanwhile, in the UK, provisional statistics released by the UK government’s Department for Transport in August showed that the share of bioethanol in the country’s supply of renewable fuel for transport for the 2022 calendar year grew significantly to 41% – a 9% year-on-year increase – while the share of biodiesel fell below 50%.

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