Global Demand for Biofuels Continues to Increase

Cindy Zimmerman

The 2017 Renewables outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA) is once again projecting continued increased demand for conventional biofuels.

The report notes that while sales of electric vehicles are increasing, “the share of EVs remains limited, and biofuels are still expected to represent over 90% of total renewable energy consumption in road transport by 2022. Biofuels production is expected to grow by over 16% during over the forecast period.”

Asia and Brazil are expected to lead in the growth of biofuels over the next five years, according to the report, with modest growth expected in the European Union. In the United States, ethanol and biodiesel production also forecast to expand as a result of “supportive policy frameworks”. Advanced biofuels (such as cellulosic ethanol) production is expected to almost quadruple from a low base, which is still just over 1% of total biofuels production.

“The IEA’s latest outlook clearly shows the key role that biofuels are playing in efforts to decarbonize the global transport sector,” said Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) president Bliss Baker. “As the only cost-effective and commercially available alternative to crude oil currently available, the significant contributions that biofuels make in reducing GHG emissions from the global transport sector each year will continue to grow.”

For the first time, the report includes an “accelerated case” forecast for biofuels that assumes “additional investment in new production capacity in Brazil; scaling up fuel distribution infrastructure in the United States; and roll-out of a blending programme in India” and estimates biofuel production could be 13% higher.

“Previous projections have outlined how biofuel production could rise to 165,000 million litres by 2030 if the US, Canada and Europe adopted a common E15 blending standard,” said Baker. “This latest accelerated case forecast by the IEA demonstrates how growing demand for biofuels driven by developing economies could realistically drive these projections much higher in a much shorter timeframe.”

The report estimates total global production of conventional biofuels to grow by an average of 2.6% annually from 2017.

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