Biofuel Hampered By Feedstock Availability Shortage

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its latest World Energy Outlook (WEO), designed as a ‘guidebook’ in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow in November.

The 380-page report describes what is at stake, what pledges to reduce emissions made by global governments mean for the energy sector, and what more needs to be achieved to limit global warming to 1.5ºC

According to the WEO reports, clean energy progress is still too far laboured to put global CO2 emissions into a sustained decline towards net-zero, and it highlights the need for world leaders to take urgent action when they meet next month in Scotland.

It highlights that the world’s coal consumption has been growing steadily over the last 12 months, and had been pushing CO2 emissions to their second-largest increase in history.

“The rapid but uneven economic recovery from last year’s COVID-induced recession is putting major strains on parts of today’s energy system, sparking sharp price rises in natural gas, coal and electricity markets. For all the advances being made by renewables and electric mobility, 2021 is seeing a large rebound in coal and oil use,” the report said.

However, the WEO notes that oil demand will peak in 2025, which is years earlier than previously expected, and that the way forward to is match rising demand without resorting to fossil fuels.

The report highlights the greater use of biofuels – bioethanol, biodiesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – the key advantage of which is that they can be adapted with minimal retrofit costs by end-users.

But biofuels are expensive to produce, and there is currently a limited supply of affordable and sustainable feedstocks.

It currently costs $70-$130 (£50-£95) per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) to produce conventional biofuels and $85-$160/boe (£53-£100) to produce advanced biofuels.

“One major challenge for the future is to mobilise investment to develop multiple new large-scale facilities to lower production costs; another is to develop new sustainable biomass supply chains,” the report said.

Biofuel demand is expected to increase by nearly 1.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) between 2020 and 2030 in the Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS), and conventional ethanol, which is mainly used in passenger cars, will make up more than half of all biofuel consumption by 2030.

SAF and advanced biodiesel is expected to increase substantially and total biofuel use will rise to 6.5 mboe/d in 2050.

In the Net Zero Emissions target, biofuel use remains at around 5.5 mboe/d through to 2050 and it will be increasingly focused on heavy trucks, shipping and aviation. SAF will account for around 40 per cent of all aviation fuel use globally by 2050.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said: “A new global energy economy is emerging, with the potential to create millions of decent jobs across a host of new supply chains. To make this a reality, government leaders in Glasgow must play their part by making the 2020s a decade of massive clean energy deployment.”

 

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