By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On April 3, 2017, the European Environment Agency (EEA) announced the publication of the report titled “Renewable Energy in Europe 2017: Recent Growth and Knock-On Effects,” which demonstrates that renewables have been a major contributor to the energy transition in Europe. An analysis of the compound annual growth rate demonstrated that the use of biofuels in transport grew fastest between 2005 and 2014 at 18 percent per year. Renewables provided six percent of the energy used for the European Union’s (EU) transportation sector in 2014, with biofuels accounting for nearly 90 percent of renewable energy. According to the report, a plateau in first-generation biofuel capacity and delays in overcoming technical and financial obstacles related to second-generation biofuel technologies resulted in fewer investments in biofuels in 2015, compared to 2005. The report also stated that electricity from solid biomass increased seven percent from 2005 to 2014, but the implementation of sustainability criteria could influence future growth in solid biomass fuel. The full report is available on the EEA website.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On April 4, 2017, Members of the European Parliament (MEP) approved a resolution calling on the European Commission (EC) to phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biofuels and advocating for a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the European Union (EU). The resolution states that biofuels production accounts for 46 percent of the palm oil imported by the EU and requires about one million hectares of tropical soils. To limit the deforestation and habitat degradation that comes from unsustainable palm oil production, the EU aims to phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation as a component of biofuels by 2020. Additionally, the resolution encourages the use of a single certification scheme with specific sustainability criteria for palm oil to ensure that only sustainably produced palm oil and products enter the EU market. MEP also called on EC to improve the traceability of imported palm oil.
Following the approval of the resolution, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced an update to the Crude Palm Oil Dashboard on its website. The dashboard provides information on Neste’s crude palm oil suppliers across the supply chain in an effort to improve supply chain transparency. Neste states that all of its crude palm oil has been fully traceable to the plantation level since 2007 and has been 100 percent certified since 2013.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On March 19, 2017, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the sixth edition of its specifications for marine fuels (ISO 8217:2017), which includes a redefined “class F” grade for biofuel blends in marine distillates. Up to seven percent fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), which has similar physical properties to conventional diesel, is permitted in the new “F” grades, specifically DFA, DFZ, and DFB. Additionally, the DMA specifications have been amended to permit 0.4 higher weight percent biodiesel, compared to the suggested level in the previous iteration of the standard. Substantial amendments were also made to the scope and other general requirements. The full specifications are available for purchase on the ISO website.
On March 23, 2017, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) announced that an antidumping and countervailing duty petition had been filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) claiming that Argentine and Indonesian companies are violating trade laws by saturating the U.S. market with dumped and subsidized biodiesel. The petition was filed on behalf of the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition, which represents the NBB and U.S. biodiesel producers. According to NBB, Argentine and Indonesian producers are selling their biodiesel in the U.S. at prices that are substantially lower than their costs of production, and government programs in both countries are providing illegal subsidies to their domestic biodiesel industries. Between 2014 and 2016, biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia increased by 464 percent, which resulted in an 18 percent loss in market share for U.S. manufacturers. Both countries have previously been charged with violating international trade laws. Following NBB’s announcement, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released a statement urging DOC and ITC to give the suit every appropriate consideration and pledging to continue to work across the aisle to reform the biodiesel tax credit, so that it incentivizes the domestic production of clean, renewable biodiesel.
On March 24, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG®, announced its approval of draft proposals by the Swedish government regarding mandated reductions in traffic fuel emissions and the continued tax exemption for high-blended biofuels. By 2030, the government aims to reduce carbon emissions from transportation by 70 percent. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the ambitious targets and long-term perspective will help support innovation and investments in biofuels. Neste, which has a strong focus on developing cost-efficient technologies to convert forest residues into biofuels, stated that the substantial amount of forest-based raw materials in the country will likely play a key role in achieving the proposed goals.
On March 14, 2017, European Bioplastics (EUBP) welcomed the outcome of the European Parliament’s plenary vote on the waste legislation proposal in which the Members of Parliament recognized the contributions of bioplastics to the European Union’s (EU) circular economy. EUBP highlighted amendments to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive that encourage Member States to support the use of biobased packaging and to improve market conditions for such materials and products, and amendments to the Waste Framework Directive that incorporates organic recycling in the definition of recycling, which will result in a separate collection of bio-waste across Europe. According to EUBP, the plenary’s vote strengthens the biobased economy and supports the goal of reducing dependence on fossil resources while demonstrating that re-use and recycling remain a priority in the pursuit of an EU circular economy.
On March 14, 2017, researchers from the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE) published a study focused on quantifying the economic and environmental impacts of second generation biofuels, based on current and future scenarios of sugarcane biorefineries that include consideration of improvements to the industrial process and biomass production systems. Although costs were determined to be higher in the short term, the study demonstrates that second generation ethanol production is more competitive than first generation ethanol in the long run, and that it reduces climate change impacts by more than 80 percent compared to gasoline. According to the researchers, the results should stimulate incentives and funding programs that support the production and consumption of second generation ethanol.
On February 14, 2017, the Government of Alberta announced the recipients of C$40 million in grant funding under the Bioenergy Producer Program (BPP). Four biofuel companies, including Permolex Ltd., Archer Daniels Midland Agri-Industries, Invigor Bioenergy, and Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, were among the successful BPP applicants to receive a grant for the first program period. Each grant was awarded based on the amount of bioenergy the company committed to produce between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017. The second program period will grant up to C$20 million to bioenergy producers based on production between April 1, 2017, and September 30, 2017. The goal of BPP is to support bioenergy production capacity in Alberta to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide value-added opportunities with economic benefits.
On February 4, 2017, the Canadian Department of the Environment and the Department of Health published in the Canada Gazette the draft screening assessment of the commercially relevant fungus, Trichoderma reesei, stating that the organism is nontoxic and does not require regulatory action under Section 77 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Following a screening assessment, Trichoderma reesei , which is used to convert biomass to biofuels and sugars and to produce food and health products, was found to not meet the criteria set out in CEPA Section 64 since the amount entering the environment does not pose a risk to human health. Options are being considered, however, for follow-up activities to track changes in the commercial use of and exposure to Trichoderma reesei . Comments on the draft assessment and the related scientific considerations are due by April 5, 2017.