According to a recent white paper from Renewable Waste Intelligence, there are two key issues facing the biofuels industry: consumers and vehicle manufacturers must be persuaded to adopt new, more environmentally friendly gasoline blends; and advanced biofuels manufacturers must demonstrate commercial capability and play catch-up to Environmental Protection Agency targets for production.
With feedstock prices high for several feedstocks, including corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel, many producers are looking for alternative feedstocks, or to move into “advanced” biofuel production. An interesting phenomena is that as waste feedstocks are more readily adopted for biodiesel production, such as yellow grease, animal fats, waste oil, etc. are used, the feedstock prices increase.
This is one reason, according to the white paper, that producers are looking to lower-cost feedstocks and a burgeoning market is waste. The white paper cites 2005 EPA estimates more than 246 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) was generated with 133 million tons sent to landfills, 79 million tons recylcled and 33.4 million tons used to generate energy. Of this, millions of tons that is ordinarily sent to landfills would make a suitable feedstock.
In many cases, local governments pay for waste to be shipped to a landfill, the average is $42 per ton. However, by citing a biofuels facility near municipal processing facilities, biofuel producers can benefit from undercutting these costs while achieving “negative” feedstock costs, according to the paper. Some analysts have noted that MSW prices could eventually increase, as happened with other waste feedstocks, technological barriers make it unlikely for this to happen any time over the next decade.
The quest for the best technologies and most affordable feedstocks will continue for many years. Many of these issues will be discussed during the 3rd Annual Municipal Solid Waste to Biofuels and Bioproducts Summit being held in Orlando, Florida February 20-21, 2013. Click here for more information and to register online.