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Biodiesel-Expo 2007 – The Most Sustainable Solutions Will Win

Introduction

Biodiesel-Expo is the largest biofuels event in Europe and the national showcase for all aspects of biodiesel production and usage. This year the event had over 4000 visitors, 110 stands, and was also host to the Biofuels Conference.

The biodiesel market is one of the fastest growing and fastest moving markets in Europe today. The event showcased the latest developments in biodiesel production, the benefits of using biodiesel, biodiesel reactor manufacturers and suppliers ranging from waste and virgin vegetable oil to biodiesel filtration systems.

The big stories at this year’s event revolved around future generation biofuels, especially jatropha and algae.

Keynote Address

Oliver Mace from BP delivered the Keynote Address at the Conference. He talked about the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). The RTFO Programme will, from April 2008, place an obligation on fuel suppliers to ensure that a certain percentage of their aggregate sales is made up of biofuels. The effect of this will be to require 5% of all UK fuel sold on UK forecourts to come from a renewable source by 2010. The idea is that this will help meet our climate change objectives as well as contributing to other Government objectives, including security of energy supply.

The RTFO is modelled on the existing Renewables Obligation in the UK electricity supply industry. The transport sector is responsible for 25% of emissions and through this initiative the RTFO expects to reduce the carbon emissions from road transport in 2010 by about 0.7-0.8 million tonnes, equivalent to 2.6-3.0 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The 5% by volume target represents the maximum biofuel content allowed by European Specifications to be sold on the forecourts as standard petrol or diesel.

In order to ensure compliance, RTF Certificates will be issued and it will be possible for companies to trade certificates. If a company cannot produce enough certificates at the end of each compliance period it will have to pay a buy out price which will go into a buy out fund.

Oliver also talked about article 7a which requires fuel suppliers from 2011 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 percent per year from 2011 to 2020. This was seen as leading to a push to 10% ethanol – which he saw as the limit for cars to run on. He saw E85 as having certain technical challenges and he didn’t see many cars adopting flexifuel engines to use E85.

Oliver was keen to stress that BP is involved in setting standards for the future, the company is on the roundtable for sustainable palm oil production, and it is in the process of developing jatropha as a global biofuel feedstock in partnership with D1 Oils.

Oliver saw BTL – biomass to liquid – as being a possible future solution, but having environmental issues with the amount of trucks needed to transport the many tonnes of solid biomass required for a cost effective large scale plant. He considered algae to be a possible solution, but believed large-scale cost effective production to be a long time off.

His message was clearly that the most sustainable solutions will win – and he said that sustainability is life or death for the whole industry. Therefore it was all the more ironic that Oliver’s keynote address was brought to a premature halt by the conference being invaded by a group protesting about crops being used for fuel rather than food. The protestors were actually invited to speak on the following day of the conference, an offer they took up. All this shows that biofuels and food v fuel is a hot topic of debate with often quite polarised views on either side. It proved that the development of second and third generation biofuels is extremely important.

Next year’s Biodiesel-Expo will again be held at the Newark Showground, on 15-16 October 2008.

Key summary points from other speakers

Will Thurmond talked about global biodiesel market trends. Key drivers are seen as tax incentives and environmental and economic security. The way forward is more non-food crops such as jatropha. In the US George Bush plans to increase the percentage of biofuels to 20% by 2017.

Rapeseed oil price has increased and soya is also expensive so profits are down for biofuel producers. So they are moving to multiple feedstocks.

The diesel market is growing in China, and in Beijing they’re using human waste for biodiesel – not great for getting stuck behind a bus exhaust!

Big biofuel plants are opening near ports and refineries. Commercial scale jatropha and algae will happen. Jatropha is a key way forward – a non-food/agricultural/rainforest crop. Plantations are expanding with India being the main producer, followed by Africa. Cost of production is low.

There will be a global supply shift of biofuels – from Europe to the southern hemisphere – Latin America, Africa and Asia. Lots of companies are now looking into production of biofuels from algae. Algae will become more mainstream after 2020.

Other speakers talked about the food versus fuel debate, where the practical realities of farming and what to grow has to be understood – biofuels are not like crude oil – they don’t come out of the ground 365 days per year. Farmers have the choice what to grow – and this depends on prices. This changes every year – and the choice is left to the last minute. There is volatility in the feedstock market, with wheat currently commanding the highest margins, but there is no clear link between crude oil prices and agricultural market prices. Biofuels currently use less than 2% of total cereal production.

Palm oil is the main oil currently being imported – it’s in demand for food and fuel. Areas such as Brazil and Malaysia have had rainforest cut down to grow palm oil. We need to move to Jatropha to avoid forests being cut down.

Many countries around the world have biofuel industries supported by government. In the US, $100 million is being allocated for cellulosic ethanol production over the next 10 years, and the government works with producers in Brazil and India. But it’s believed we’re getting left behind in the UK due to lack of support for farmers.

More potential land for biofuel production is being released in the UK by set aside land being cancelled – for one year as a trial – but this may be permanent; it is seen as an outdated mechanism – the biofuel industry believes we don’t need land set aside – however wildlife charities would strongly disagree.

One of the most interesting exhibits at the event was the Bioking photobioreactor showing how algae can be used to produce biofuels. Algae is uneconomical now but is seen as an important way forward in the future.

Companies Exhibiting

An example of a company that was exhibiting at the Biodiesel-Expo was Green Fuels.

Green Fuels is a biodiesel equipment supplier, helping customers who want to make their own 100% biodiesel.

The fuel costs between 15-78 pence per litre to produce, mainly dependent upon the price of the oil feedstock. If you produce under 2500 litres per year, for own use, it’s duty-free as from 1 July 2007 – this equates to approximately 25,000 miles per year in a conventional vehicle.

Green Fuels can supply the equipment for use at home, and deliver high quality waste or fresh oil for production if required. The company says that their biodiesel works in any new car, without any engine alterations. However there will be manufacturers’ warranty implications.

The kit costs £1750 plus VAT. Green-Car-Guide was talked through the production process, involving getting hold of the oil (used or fresh), pre-heating the system base, filling with oil, doing a sample test, adding the additives (methanol and methylate), draining the glycerine, doing purification, and ending up with biodiesel – which all sounds simple enough, and can produce 40 litres in 5-10 minutes.

The benefit of all this is that the diesel that is cheaper than at the pumps, it should be more environmentally-friendly – especially if waste oil is used, and provides you with a feel-good element of energy security!

Next year’s Biodiesel-Expo will again be held at the Newark Showground, on 15-16 October 2008.