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21 Nov 2011 12:11:50

Advanced biofuels needed to meet UK renewable transport targets

A new landmark Government study, written by the NNFCC – the UK’s National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials – suggests that the UK needs significant investment in a new generation of biofuels to meet its renewable transport targets.

New technologies – like gasification and pyrolysis – allow biofuels to be made from a wide range of sustainable materials, such as household rubbish. Until recently these technologies were confined to laboratories but we are now beginning to unlock their huge potential.

Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, Chief Executive of the NNFCC, said: “Electric cars offer a sound long-term solution to our renewable road transport needs, but biofuels are currently the best way to decrease our carbon emissions from transport.”

“The UK has ambitious carbon reduction plans and this report highlights the necessity for increased investment in advanced biofuels, which could meet almost half of our renewable transport needs by the end of the decade,” he added.

By 2020, 10 per cent of the energy used in UK road and rail transport must come from renewable sources – this is the equivalent of replacing 4.3 million tonnes of fossil oil each year.

Most of our renewable fuel currently comes from vegetable oils. However, due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, conventional biofuels are likely to produce just 3.7 to 6.6 per cent of the energy needed in road and rail transport by 2020.

As a result, there is a very real need for the UK to develop a range of biofuels using sustainable feedstocks, says the report.

Under favourable economic conditions and strong improvements in policy support, projections suggest advanced biofuels could meet up to 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport fuel target by 2020. This would require around 1 million tonnes of woody biomass, 2 million tonnes of wheat (butanol) and 4.4 million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial wastes.

At this scale advanced biofuels would save the UK 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 each year – equivalent to taking nearly a million cars off the road – and create 6000 full-time construction jobs and over 2000 permanent jobs supplying and operating the plants.

The report, Advanced Biofuels: The Potential for a UK Industry, NNFCC 11-011 (www.nnfcc.co.uk/tools/advanced-biofuels-the-potential-for-a-uk-industry-nnfcc-11-011), was commissioned by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Department for Transport (DfT).

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