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Biodiesels pollute more than crude oil, leaked data show

Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels such as palm oil, soybean and rapeseed are higher than those for fossil fuels when the effects of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) are counted, according to leaked EU data seen by EurActiv. In its recent review of the Fuel Quality Directive, the EU proposed a default value of 107g CO2 equivalent per megajoule of fuel for oil from tar sands, as compared to 87.5g CO2/mj for crude oil.  The data propose ILUC-incorporating CO2/mj values for biofuels as Palm Oil – 105g ;Soybean – 103g ;Rapeseed – 95g; Sunflower – 86g.  Some 2nd generation biofuels come out very much lower.  The EU’s new biofuels certification plan, (for road vehicles, planes are not included) announced last August stipulates that certification only be awarded to biofuels which emit 35% less greenhouse gas than petrol, with the figure rising to 60% from 2018.

27 January 2012 – Updated 30 January 2012 (Euractiv)

Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels such as palm oil, soybean and rapeseed are higher than those for fossil fuels when the effects of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) are counted, according to leaked EU data seen by EurActiv.

The default values assigned to the biofuels compare to those from Canada’s oil sands – also known as tar sands – according to the figures, which should be released along with long-awaited legislative proposals on biofuels in the spring.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said she could “not comment on leaked documents, such as impact assessments which have not been published.”

But industry and civil society sources described the data as credible and in line with other studies. One said it would sound a death knell for the biodiesel industry, if published.

“I think the science has proved clearly that because of the link to deforestation in places such as South East Asia, a lot of the biodiesels have significantly negative impacts on the climate,” Robbie Blake, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, told EurActiv.

Indirect land-use change

ILUC happens when forests and wetlands are cleared to compensate for lands taken to grow biofuels elsewhere.

One recent report predicted that all of Malaysia’s tropical peatswamp forests would be destroyed by the end of the decade because of ILUC – with alarming consequences for greenhouse gas emissions – unless the expansion of palm oil production was halted.

To measure the climate impact of fuels, Brussels favours assigning default values based on a calculation of their full lifecycle emissions, hence the debate over ILUC factors and biofuels.

In its recent review of the Fuel Quality Directive, the EU proposed a default value of 107g CO2 equivalent per megajoule of fuel (CO2/mj) for oil from tar sands, as compared to 87.5g CO2/mj for crude oil, reflecting the greater environmental harm that its production causes.

Yet while advanced ‘second generation’ biofuels comfortably outperform fossil fuels in the EU’s new data, palm oil is ascribed a value of 105g, soybean 103g, rapeseed 95g, and sunflower 86g, once ILUC is factored in.

The data propose ILUC-incorporating CO2/mj values for biofuels as follows:

  • Palm Oil – 105g
  • Soybean – 103g
  • Rapeseed – 95g
  • Sunflower – 86g
  • Palm Oil with methane capture – 83g
  • Wheat (process fuel not specified) – 64g
  • Wheat (as process fuel natural gas used in CHP) – 47g
  • Corn (Maize) – 43g
  • Sugar Cane – 36g
  • Sugar Beet – 34g
  • Wheat (straw as process fuel in CHP plants) – 35g
  • 2G Ethanol (land-using) – 32g
  • 2G Biodiesel (land-using) – 21g
  • 2G Ethanol (non-land using) – 9g
  • 2G Biodiesel (non-land using) – 9g


Isabelle Maurizi, a spokesperson for the European Biodiesel Board, told EurActiv that data such as the leaked biofuels values, and recent reports by the EU’s Joint Research Centre, the European Environmental Agency, and the International Food Policy Research Institute, were not consistent with research in the US.

“We do not recognise the validity of the science due to discrepancies in the results. The science is not grounded yet and is still immature so we would favour incentives in policy-making rather than punitive proposals,” she said.

Any application of the leaked values could severely hamper the ability of biodiesel manufacturers to enter into the EU’s new biofuels certification plan, announced last August.

This stipulates that certification only be awarded to biofuels which emit 35% less greenhouse gas than petrol, with the figure rising to 60% from 2018.

Advanced biofuels producers believe they would meet this standard and Rob Vierhout, the secretary-general of ePURE, a renewable ethanol association, said that the EU needed “a different shade of ILUC factor.”

“If indeed the effects on land use change depend on the feedstock that they’re using, then this has to be recognised in the policy,” he told EurActiv.

In April 2009, the EU legislated that renewable energy sources such as biofuels should make up 10% of Europe’s transportation fuels mix by 2020, and this has legal as well as financial consequences.

Market signals

Nusa Urbancic, of the Transport & Environment pressure group, called for the EU to “send a clear signal to the markets about which are the future biofuels that we want.”

“We have enough biodiesel to meet the current target which is a problem for the sector, because they overinvested following a different policy signal and to some extent their investments should be protected,” she told EurActiv.

But with scientific knowledge of the climate advantages that advanced biofuels offered “there is no excuse now not to act to resolve that [problem],” she added.

A report published by the French national auditor on 24 January found that although farmers gained from the EU’s current biofuels policy, environmental benefits were ‘questionable’ and motorists ended up having to consume more fuel and pay high prices.


Kåre Riis Nielsen, Director for European Affairs, Novozymes told EurActiv: “There is a clear cut between those biofuels that are not able to reach the 35% greenhouse gas emissions targets if you include ILUC, and those that are. Our position is that any new policy should be based on ILUC. It should promote the best-performing biofuels and focus on making sure that they are on the market and that the advanced biofuels are promoted and deployed.”

For the European Biodiesel Board, Isabelle Maurizi said that “Biodiesel is one of the means to reach the EU’s 10% target of renewable supply in transport and we should keep in mind that is a renewable alternative to fossil fuel.”

“It is always a bit hard to do legislation based on reports with so many discrepancies,” she continued. “The International Food Policy Research Institute study which is most likely to be used by the European Commission has loopholes and shortcomings in the methodology that we have underlined. The US results are the exact opposite. Ethanol is worse than biodiesel whereas in Europe it’s the complete opposite.”

Rob Vierhout, the secretary-general of ePURE told EurActiv that one reason for the discrepancy could be that Ethanol in the US was made from corn, unlike in Europe. “As far as I know, they don’t use sugar beet either and it is the best-performing ethanol in the world. Also many power plants in the US are also running on lignite coal, which we hardly have in Europe. So you are comparing apples with pears if you say the numbers should be the same in Europe. It’s a different feedstock and processing technology.”

Robbie Blake, the biofuels spokesman for Friends of the Earth told EurActiv that biodiesel investors should have researched their stock portfolio more thoroughly. “If I was an investor in the biodiesel industry then I would have been betting on an industry that’s causing deforestation and is certainly not delivering the clean green fuels that it promises,” he said.

But the EU’s biofuels plans too should have been better considered, he said: “I think we can draw a clear conclusion that if member states stick to the plans they have laid out already then it’s clear that it will cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and that’s especially the case when we rely on cheap but very damaging palm and soy oil.”

Nusa Urbancic, the biofuels expert for Transport and Environment said that it was “difficult to say” whether the EU’s biofuels policy had increased greenhouse gas emissions in the past, because of the lack of reliable monitoring data. “But these [leaked EU] figures give a sense of what will happen in the future if we don’t act,” she told EurActiv.

“Assuming that existing demand stays as it is and increases by the amount predicted in the national action plans, most of that increase will be met by those biodiesel crops that are deemed to increase emissions compared to fossil fuels. So we can say with a lot of certainty that there is a risk that if we continue with current policies, emissions will increase instead of decrease.”


Spring 2012: EU to bring forward new legislative proposal on biofuels and ILUC

Arthur Neslen

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Airlines Flying on Clean Fuel Should Pay Less Tax, Branson Says

Branson manages to persuade  many people that he takes his responsibilities to the environment seriously, and really plans to fly “green” and “clean” planes … whatever those charmingly vague terms mean. The spin about “clean”, alternative bio-jet fuels is fair enough if it concerns fuels made from waste flue gases, but his hopes of the aviation industry growing hugely by 2050 and getting half its fuel from biofuels by then are unrealistic. The hype is intended to persuade government etc that the aviation industry is seriously trying to tackle the issue of carbon emissions and thus to get as much government subsidy for this as possible. In reality it is a delaying tactic to to continue business as usual. 

Sir Richard Branson Talks Clean Fuel Initative

Sir Richard Branson talks about his philosophy of business and philanthropy. He said the first rule of a business is to survive. But once a business is thriving it must give back. His way of doing that is to pledge to take the profits from his dirty businesses — like the airline Virgin Airways — and put into his clean fuel initiative. He has invested in companies that make clean fuels for planes. He says they will be able to use clean fuels by 2020 which will be cheaper than fuel used now. One company he invested in turns emissions from plants into alcohol, which is turned into fuel.

Take a look: [There is a highly disingenuous and highly annoying video clip of Branson, who almost seems to believe his own spin about what being "green" is.  If he believes his own hype, he is dangerously misinformed; if he knows it to be misleading, it confirms his role in further damaging the climate and the planet. His aim is to continue flying, and grow his aviation business as much as possible].

Airlines Flying on Clean Fuel Should Pay Less Tax, Branson Says

By Louise Downing - Dec 5, 2011 

Governments need to make it “very clear” that jet fuel made from sources such as inedible plants and organic waste aren’t taxed like regular fuel, said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.

A push by governments to remove taxes levied on airlines if they switch to using clean fuel would provide “enormous encouragement to the airline industry” to invest further in biofuel companies, Branson said today in a telephone interview. Virgin already has invested in Gevo Inc. and Solazyme Inc.

The airline spends more than $2 billion a year on fuel and there is “billions and billions and billions” there for the taking by the clean energy industry, the entrepreneur said. The industry fuel bill was $139 billion in 2010.

“Governments need to make it clear that if it’s clean fuel it shouldn’t be taxed and if it’s dirty fuel it should be taxed and that seems to be the best way to speed things up,” he said. The International Air Transport Association, (IATA) which estimates the aviation industry accounts for 2 percent of global carbon- dioxide emissions, set a target in 2007 to eliminate these emissions from air travel by 2050.

The Carbon War Room, a not-for-profit organization funded by Branson, today started a web and information site aimed at reducing the use of traditional jet fuels by as much as 50 percent. It will also play a role in talking to governments to try and push a “no-tax on clean fuel policy,” Branson said. “I think they will be knocking at an open door as it will be very difficult for governments to disagree with that,” he said.

‘Reduce Air Fares’

Aviation could move from being one of the dirtiest industries to being one of the cleanest rapidly, Branson said. He hopes that this can be achieved by 2020.

Virgin Atlantic, which in 2008 became the first airline to fly a plane using first-generation biofuel made from babassu nuts and coconut oil mixed with kerosene, plans in two to three years to fly planes using fuel made from waste gases from steel mills.

Over the next year it will work with LanzaTech NZ Ltd., which makes the fuel, to sign deals with aluminum and steel plants so they can roll out production “as fast as possible.”

There are about 1,800 tanks filling airplanes around the world with fuel so once there are two to three companies producing renewable jet fuel, it will be easy to supply them to the airline industry, Branson said.

Airlines on July 1 won approval from the U.S. technical standards body ASTM International to blend fuel from inedible plants and organic waste with traditional kerosene-based jet fuel. Since approval, Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA)Finnair Oyj (FIA1S) and Air France-KLM Group have flown planes using the fuel.

ASTM is now testing fuel made from alcohols, and this is expected to be approved in 2013.

Renewable aviation fuel would provide competition to traditional jet fuel. “Ultimately if you have a competitor, we might be able to reduce costs and therefore reduce airfares,” Branson said.


Scaling Biofuels for Aviation ‘Not so difficult,’ Branson Says

(Earth and Industry)

by Timothy Hurst on December 5, 2011

The commercial aviation industry could go from being one of the dirtiest to being one of the cleanest in ten years, according to one of the industry’s best-known figures.

Richard Branson says the world’s 7,000 airlines could switch to low-carbon jet fuels much faster than other forms of transportation because airplanes have very few “filling stations.”

“Unlike cars where there are millions of filling stations, there are only about 1,700 aviation stations in the world. So if you can get the right fuel, like mass-produced algae, [still not viable on a large scale] then getting it to 1,700 outlets is not so difficult,” Branson said in an interview with The Guardian.

Branson’s Virgin Group, which owns a majority stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways, said the industry should aim for 50% sustainable fuels by 2020.

“Aviation fuel is 25-40% of the running costs of airlines so the industry is open to new fuels,” said Branson, who also heads up the Carbon War Room, an effort to work with and reward businesses that lead reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Some airlines are way ahead of others in the quest to make biofuels a regular part of the commercial aviation fuel mix. Several European airlines have tested or incorporated low-carbon fuels, as required by the EU program to reduce emissions from the aviation sector. But in North America, in the absence of such laws, progress is much slower.

Last month, Alaska Air chairman and CEO Bill Ayer lauded sustainable biofuels as “key to aviation’s future,” at the start of Alaska Air’s biofuel trial period of 75 regularly-scheduled commercial flights running on a biofuel blend.  Alaska was on course to be the first airline in the U.S. to fly a commercial flight powered by biofuel but two days before they were scheduled to do so, United edged out Alaska Air to take the honors.

Unlike Alaska Air, however, United has no immediate plans to procure a long-term supply of biofuels for use in their domestic aviation operations.


and Guardian at

see also

Branson hoping for 50% “sustainable” aviation fuels by 2020 (8 years ahead)

Date added: December 5, 2011

Guardian article about Richard Branson and his hopes for aviation being able to use biofuels for perhaps 50% of their fuel by 2020. This is based on the hope that biofuels, from algae in particular, will be very low carbon. There is a lot of unfounded optimism about what biofuels’ carbon emissions will be, now cheap they will be, and how fast they can be scaled up to industrial quantities. Branson’s aim is not to cut overall emissions, but get cheap fuel for airlines, so they can continue to grow – and thus postpone the day when the industry acutually starts to be responsible for its environmental impact.

Click here to view full story…

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EU – Double counting for cooking oil biodiesel approved in Germany

France and the Netherlands already double count biofuels made from used cooking oil, and Germany also does this, backdated to January 2011. This is all fuels, for aviation as well as for road transport.  It means products are counted twice towards the national quota of the amount of supposedly low carbon fuel being used by that country. They get this double countin because of their reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The German biofuels quota stipulates that the use of tallow-based products for biodiesel production be phased out completely from 2012. SkyNRG in Holland provides aviation biofuel based on  used cooking oil to several airlines.

Double counting for biodiesel approved in Germany

22 December 2011

The German Federal Finance Ministry says it will qualify biodiesel produced from used cooking oil for double counting, even if it includes animal fats.

The Netherlands and France already includes waste-based biodiesel within its double counting legislation and it is possible to double count in countries that have not yet implemented their schemes officially, such as in the UK.

Previously, Germany was unable to implement the double counting measures because of tracebility issues but it has since resolved this.

It is thought that Italy and Spain will soon follow suit, and with the double counting scheme applying to both used cooking oil and tallow, it should allow for these counties to use a wider range of feedstocks for biodiesel production. It is hoped that this will encourage price levels of raw materials to stabilise. 


Germany double counts waste-derived biofuels

08 Jun 2011 (Argus)

Germany has introduced the double-counting of certain types of biodiesel derived from waste products, as it looks to meet the EU 10% target share of renewables in transport fuels by 2020.

The measures, which were finalised on 6 June, have been enacted retrospectively from 1 January 2011, the Germany environmental ministry told Argus.

The German regulation aims to translate the EU Renewable Energy Directive into national law. The directive stipulates that waste-derived biodiesel products are counted twice towards the national quota because of their reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU regulation allows for a wide interpretation of waste-derived products, ranging from used cooking oils (UCO) to animal fat or tallow feedstocks.

But Germany has only opted to include certain types of biomass, such as UCO, while tallow or animal-based produced remain exempt from double counting.

Several other European countries have already enforced legislation, including the double-counting of tallow products.

The German biofuels quota stipulates that the use of tallow-based products for biodiesel production be phased out completely from 2012.

Consumption of waste-derived biodiesel in Germany has fallen sharply over the past two years. Waste-derived products accounted for 5% of overall biodiesel consumption in 2009, falling to 1% last year. This is partially because of incentives offered in other European countries, promoting exports.

German biodiesel sales rose by 2.6% to 2.58mn t in 2010 from a year earlier.

The Dutch government says, on double counting of biofuel:

Double counting of advanced biofuels

Double counting of better biofuels
Economic operators who bring petrol or diesel on the Dutch market, can count certain biofuels double to fulfill their biofuel obligation. For example, a company that meets its entire target commitment for 2011 via these better biofuels, only needs to sell 2.125% biofuels, rather than the standard 4.25%.
The double counting of biofuels is described in paragraph 6 of theMinisterial Order Renewable Energy in Transport. With this order, the Ministerial Order Double counting better biofuels from 2009 is lapsed. The contents of this lapsed ministerial order are included in the new order of Renewable Energy in Transport.

Which biofuels should count double?
The paragraph applies to biofuels produced from waste, residues and lignocellulose materials. Only raw materials that can not be used for a higher value application other than for generating electricity or heat, composting or using the ligno-cellulosic part as animal fodder, are eligible for double counting. Should a particular raw material have an alternative application, then a market analysis must be used to prove that there is an excess of this material available, before it may become eligible for double counting.

Demonstrate that biofuels meet the requirements for double counting
In order to proce that the biofuels are eligible for double counting, companies must send annual reports to the Ministry of IenM as part of the reporting on the mandatory share of biofuels (see Article 3 of the Decree on Renewable Energy in Transport). The information provided by the fuel suppliers must be accompanied by a so-called verification statement. Inspection bodies should issue this verification statement.
Inspection bodies use the verification protocol double counting of better biofuels. This protocol includes basic rules, procedures and guidelines for the verification of double-counted biofuels. The verification process consists of two phases. The first, preparatory, phase is where the auditor gathers all the necessary information from the producer (and, where necessary, from suppliers) and visits the production site. On the basis of this information, the auditor conducts a risk-analysis and draws up a verification plan. The second phase consists of the actual audit and random checks, with reports of the tasks implemented and the conclusions drawn. If all criteria have been met, the inspection institute issues a verification statement at the end of phase two.

Requirements inspection bodies must meet to issue a verification statement
Inspection bodies that issue an verification statement, must be accredited in accordance to the information standard NEN-EN ISO/IEC 17020, type A. In addition, the institutions should be accredited to the additional tasks relating to the double counting of biofuels by the Dutch Accreditation Council or the Accreditation Council has finished a preliminary process to achieve accreditation, even if the complete procedure is not yet finalised.

Ability to demonstrate sustainability using the verification protocol
In addition to double counting, the protocol also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the sustainability of biofuels made from certain feedstocks. These include biofuels made from residues and wastes not originating from agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry origin.
The verification certificate issued by an inspection body then serves both as a declaration that certain biofuels may count as double as as a statement that the sustainability of biofuels is shown. For other feedstock, such as grown lignocellulosic biomass, a separate sustainability statement has still have to be sent in, along with a statement relating to double counting.

History of the verification protocol double counting better biofuels
In August 2009, then SenterNovem, commissioned DEKRA to draw a verification protocol. After developing an initial draft protocol, DEKRA and Control Union implemented three trial investigations at biofuel producers. After evaluation of these pilots, the final protocol was adopted. During 2010 and 2011 the protocol was updated twice. The latest updated version is known as version 3.0, dated May 2011.
NLAgency is currently responsible for managing the verification protocol.

Further information
More information on double counting and the verification protocol can be found in the following documents:

If you have any questions about the double counting of biofuels, please contact NLAgency: Bregje van Keulen (

Oct 6, 2011  The biofuel blend has been supplied by Netherlands-based SkyNRG, [seeSkyNRG comment below] which has already supplied fuel for the
Jun 23, 2011  The fuel is produced by Dynamic Fuels and supplied by SkyNRG, the SkyNRG is advised by an independent Sustainability Board, consisting

Thai Airways conducts biofuel test flight

December 21, 2011     Thai Airways has flown a 20 minute flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, for the media, airline representatives etc, using partly biofuels, provided by Dutch company SkyNRG. It used 50% ordinary jet fuel and 50% recycled cooking oil from the US. SkyNRG says “SkyNRG does not commit to one single feedstock or technology. The sustainability of alternative aviation fuels depends on many factors and has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.” There will be the first passenger flight tomorrow.  Click here to view full story…


SkyNRG – Sky Energy | The Fuel Future » Finnair to start flying on…/finnair-to-start-flying-on-sustainable-jet-fuel-out-of-

13 Jul 2011 – Finnair and SkyNRG have also agreed to jointly work on a structural supply chain, as both parties firmly believe that the adoption of “green 

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US Navy buys another 450,000 gallons biofuel for practice exercise

The US Navy has bought 450,000 gallons of biofuel – its largest purchase – in order to try and reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuel oil. It is costing the Navy about $15 per gallon, compared to $4 for ordinary jet fuel. The oil came partly from Dynamic Fuels (in Louisiana) made from used cooking oil and animal fat, and from Solarzyme which produces algal fuel.  Solarzyme has already sold the Navy bout 150,000 gallons of their fuel. It will be used in 50% mixture in planes and ships, for a practice “green strike group” Naval exercise off Hawaii in 2012.

US Navy in big biofuel purchase

by Staff Writers  (Bio fuel Daily)
Washington (AFP) Dec 5, 2011

The US Navy unveiled plans Monday for its biggest-ever biofuel purchase as part of an effort to reduce dependence on imported oil.

US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the 450,000 gallons (1.7 million liters) were part of the “largest single purchase of advanced drop-in biofuel in government history.” The biofuel also “comes from non-food sources and does not increase the carbon footprint.”

The purchase aims to meet President Barack Obama’s goal “to achieve more energy security by finding ways to lessen our dependence on oil and fossil fuels,” Mabus said.

The Defense Department will purchase biofuel made from a blend of non-food waste, including algae produced by Solazyme and used cooking oil from the Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, LLC, a joint venture of Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corp.

The fuel will be used in the US Navy’s demonstration of a “green strike group” in 2012 during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise off the coast of Hawaii.

Mabus said the entire strike group, including aircraft and ships, will use a 50 percent biofuel blend, mixed with diesel for the ships, and aviation fuel for the aircraft.

By 2016, the Navy aims to send a carrier strike group on a normal, multi-month deployment using 50 percent biofuels for both surface ships and aircraft.

The biofuel is considered a drop-in fuel, meaning no modifications to the engines are required.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who joined in the announcement, said the move helps improve energy security “by basically producing our own fuels in a creative and innovative way.”

Navy Takes Flak for $15 / Gallon Biofuel Purchase Totalling $12M

DECEMBER 27, 2011


Critics claim that $15 / gallon (the calculated pump price) is too much. The Navy says this will accelerate the production of homegrown fuel and contribute to Navy’s goal of 50% renewable fuel by 2020.

The 450,000 gallons of agal and animal fat oil-based fuel constitutes the largest single purchase of biofuel in US history.

While the fuel is an advanced, drop-in biofuel (it requires no engine modification), it will first be blended 50/50 with marine diesel or aviation gas and then used in a demonstration aircraft-carrier group dubbed “The Green Strike Group.”

In preparation, the Navy says it has already tested the fuel in F/A-18s and all six of the Blue Angels, along with the V-22 Osprey, the RCB-X (riverine command boat), training patrol crafts and other vessels.

Two companies will deliver the order, despite producing biofuel from two wildly different sources. Dynamic Fuels (half-owned by Tyson Foods) produces fuel from waste fat and greases, while California-based Solazyme is an algae-based biofuel company.

Before this contract, Solazyme had already delivered about 150,000 gallons of their fuel to the Navy.

The demonstration comes as a response to President Obama’s “we can’t wait” energy security goals, outlined in the March 2011 “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” which prompted the Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy, and Navy to set aside up to $510M for renewable fuels over the next three years.

This money will be invested in partnerships with the private sector to produce drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use.

Critics aren’t happy, claiming that a back-of-the-napkin $15 / gallon is too much when compared to the standard aviation-fuel price of $3.97 per gallon.

It seems a bit unfair to compare the two, considering that aviation-fuel has about a 72-year head start. The simple fact that algae biofuel is being successfully tested in advanced tactical aircraft is incredible, let alone that it’s being done at any kind of scale.

Will biofuels always be more expensive than fossil fuels? Probably!

But since when did the US military care about paying a little extra? The Navy’s major point here about acquiring 50% of their fuel from renewable, home-grown sources is the strategic consideration of reliable access to fuel.

If the US loses a large percentage of primary fuel imports, it sure would be nice to have access to something else, cost be damned.
For some differing opinions on this, see the following:

Navy under scruitiny for buying $15/g biojet fuel
Jim Lane | December 29, 2011

In Washington, the U.S. Navy is under scrutiny for spending $12 million to purchase biojet fuel at $15 per gallon compared to the standard aviation-fuel price of $3.97 per gallon. The Navy defends the purchase by stating it will accelerate the production of domestically produced fuel and contribute to the Navy’s goal of 50% renewable fuel by 2020.
The 450,000 gallons of agal and animal fat oil-based fuel is the largest single purchase of biofuel in US history. Produced by Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels respectively, the fuel is an advanced, drop-in biofuel that requires no engine modification. However, it will first be blended 50/50 with marine diesel or aviation gas and then used in a demonstration aircraft-carrier group dubbed “The Green Strike Group.”

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Making cellulosic biofuels out of wood chips and grass just loses money

One of the possible sources of so-called “sustainable” biofuels for aviation is cellulosic biofuel – derived from plant material like wood chips, woody waste or various grasses. Several companies have been given large government grants in the USA to work on this, but it has proved to be too costly and fraught with problems. Tar production in the equipment is a problem that has proved hard to solve, especially at scale. One company has now failed and had to auction off its assets. Another is turning to corn (= maize) as that can make money, though the realise it competes with food and so affects food prices.

To Survive, Some Biofuels Companies Give Up on Biofuels

Companies such as Gevo hope to become profitable by turning corn into chemicals.

Plan B: The plant Gevo is retrofitting in Luverne, Minnesota.

Gevo, a prominent advanced-biofuels company that has received millions in U.S. government funding to develop fuels made from cellulosic sources such as grass and wood chips, is finding that it can’t use these materials if it hopes to survive. Instead, it’s going to use corn, a common source for conventional biofuels. What’s more, most of the product from its first facility will be used for chemicals rather than fuel.

As the difficulty of producing cellulosic biofuels cheaply becomes apparent, a growing number of advanced-biofuels companies are finding it necessary to take creative approaches to their business, even though that means abandoning some of their green credentials, at least temporarily, and focusing on markets that won’t have a major impact on oil imports. This is hardly the outcome the government hoped for when it announced cellulosic-biofuels mandates, R&D funding, and other incentives in recent years.

Cellulosic biofuels still cost much more to produce than either corn ethanol or gasoline. One reason is that startups have had trouble raising enough money to build the large-scale commercial plants needed to lower costs. That’s in part because their technology is unproven, and in part because there’s no guaranteed market for cellulosic biofuels yet.

Additionally, government mandates that were meant to help create a market for cellulosic biofuels have so far been ineffective; it’s typically cheaper for the fuel providers affected by the mandate to purchase credits rather than biofuels. And finally, supply chains for cellulosic materials aren’t yet well developed, so companies face a challenge when they try to lock in reliable access to them.

Gevo’s strategy addresses all these problems. Besides relying on corn in order to overcome supply challenges, the company is reducing capital costs by retrofitting existing corn ethanol plants rather than building new ones; the retrofit of the first plant, in Luverne, Minnesota, will cost about $40 million, a fraction of the hundreds of millions it costs to build a new plant. And rather than making ethanol, Gevo is making butanol, which can command a higher price—especially for use as a feedstock for the chemical industry. Gevo expects that it can make butanol from corn—a readily available feedstock—for significantly less than it costs to make it from petroleum.

Gevo plans to start operations at Luverne within the next six months or so and hopes to produce 17 million gallons of butanol per year there. Most of it is destined for Sasol Chemical Industries, which will sell the butanol to make chemicals.

Butanol can be converted into a wide range of chemicals for making plastics and other products that are now made with oil. Gevo already has an agreement with a major maker of synthetic rubber, and last week it announced a partnership with Coca-Cola to develop plastic bottles made entirely from plants.

Gevo is not entirely abandoning the fuels market, however. It has an agreement with a distributor that can sell the butanol for use in small engines and marine engines, two applications where ethanol doesn’t work well. It’s also making 11,000 gallons of jet fuel from its butanol for the U.S. Air Force, which wants to test it for use in planes. That contract will cover the cost of a 10,000-gallon-per-month jet fuel demonstration plant, says Pat Gruber, Gevo’s CEO.

The use of corn for fuels and chemicals is controversial, in part because growing and processing corn releases significant amounts of greenhouse gas, and in part because using corn for fuel may affect food markets.

Gruber says the impact on food supplies and prices is mitigated by the fact that the protein in corn is still available for use in animal feed. He even makes the case that using the sugar from corn to make fuel rather than soft drinks could help the obesity problem in the United States.

“Suppose we’re in a world where we’re making huge quantities of fuels and displacing petroleum. We could come to the point where we’re running in a conflict of food versus fuel,” he says. “We should use only excess carbohydrates to make fuels.” Even so, eventually the company plans to use nonfood sources. “The feedstock in the U.S. right now is corn starch,” he says. “That’s the right feedstock for us. In the future it will be cellulosics.”



see also

Cellulosic Aviation Biofuels    30.9.2011



Reuters  30.11.2011

Advanced Biofuels Industry Hunkers Down for Hard Times




The Death of Range Fuels Shouldn’t Doom All Biofuels

(Advanced Biofuels USA)
Submitted by joanne on December 15, 2011

by Kevin Bullis (MIT Technology Review)

This month, Range Fuels, one of the first companies in a wave of startups that promised cheap biofuels made from sources such as wood chips rather than corn, shut its doors for good and was forced to auction off its assets.

The company failed for many reasons, but the biggest seems to be that its technology proved too expensive, something that experts say shouldn’t be a surprise, since it was similar to other technologies with well-known problems.

Range Fuels benefited from being an “early mover” in the field, says David Berry, a partner at the venture capital firm Flagship Ventures. “It got a lot of attention, and so it was well positioned to raise a bunch of money. The reality was, the technology couldn’t quite keep up with the attention,” he says. “That led to the company’s demise.”

Range Fuels, which had planned to turn wood chips into ethanol, received substantial attention in 2006, after President Bush declared in his State of the Union Address that the United States was “addicted to oil” and pointed to “cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switchgrass.”

By the following year, Range Fuels had received a $76 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and had broken ground on a commercial-scale plant in Soperton, Georgia. That plant was designed to produce 20 million gallons of fuel a year at first, and eventually 100 million gallons.

At the time, Range Fuels said its plant could produce fuel by 2008, but it still wasn’t finished in 2009, when it received an $80 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help with construction. In addition to government funding, over its history, the company received over $150 million in venture capital.

The Range Fuels plant produced some methanol in 2010, but it operated at a loss, and it was shut down in 2011. By December 2011, the company had received just over $40 million of the full grant awarded by the DOE (the rest was to come at the next phase of construction). David Aldous, the CEO of Range Fuels, says $37 million of the loan guarantee is outstanding.

Range Fuels’s technology is similar to a process that’s long been used to convert coal into liquid fuels. It starts with a gasification step that uses heat, pressure, and steam to turn wood chips into a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide known as syngas. The company then used catalysts to make a combination of methanol and ethanol. It claimed that by using a proprietary catalyst, and some smart engineering, it could make the normally expensive process more economical.

As early as 2007, energy experts were raising red flags about the technology (as Technology Review noted here). Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, said that their attempts to scale up similar technology had revealed a number of problems.

…One possible problem, says Helena Chum, a research fellow at NREL, is tar formation during the gasification step, something that has plagued similar attempts at gasification by Georgia Pacific and other companies. “Even if it’s a small amount in experiments, when you go into industrial production, it becomes an enormous amount to deal with,” Chum says. The problem was known to researchers, she says, “but technology developers sometime ignore research results in trying to move fast.”

Chum says other problems can arise from gasifying biomass—including the presence of inorganic impurities and irregular proportions of the gases formed, which requires modifying catalysts and processes, all of which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Some sources have suggested that the culture at Range Fuels caused the company to downplay the significance of technical challenges as it rushed to scale up the technology. Chum says that’s common. “Usually developers are optimistic, so they go with very short time frames. Even if companies have people on the staff that say it will take longer, the investors don’t want to wait a long time, and sometimes neither does the government,” she says.

Aldous says the biggest problem Range Fuels encountered was securing enough money to address the technical challenges it faced, especially in the midst of a recession. He says the company could only get enough money to build the plant in stages, and that the partial plant had to operate at a loss.

The system for feeding biomass to the gasifiers, which Range Fuels bought from a supplier, could only provide enough to supply one of the company’s two gasifiers, while the other stood idle. “This meant we were losing money with each gallon we produced; the supplier needed a few months to redesign their system, which is why we mothballed the plant,” he says.

By early 2011, even Vinod Khosla, the prominent investor who provided seed funding for Range Fuels and who had written enthusiastically about the company during its early days, was criticizing the company’s basic technology. “In our view, the traditional path of chemical catalysis of syngas to fuels (be it ethanol or Fischer-Tropsch synthesis) appears economically challenging,” he wrote in January. “Technologies like Range that started with chemical catalysts will need to switch over to these newer fermentation techniques.”

Commenting in a recent e-mail to Technology Review, Khosla noted, however, that it is typical for many of the companies pursuing a new technology to fail. “The nature of the venture race is that the best technology (lowest cost, highest performance, etc.) in each technology does very well, some do okay, and many fail because their technology was not good enough,” he says.

Chum agrees. “We shouldn’t call the failure of one company the failure of a field,” she says.


Read more »

Thai Airways conducts biofuel test flight

 Thai Airways has flown a 20 minute flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, for the media, airline representatives etc, using partly biofuels, provided by Dutch company SkyNRG. It used 50% ordinary jet fuel and 50% recycled cooking oil from the US. SkyNRG says “SkyNRG does not commit to one single feedstock or technology. The sustainability of alternative aviation fuels depends on many factors and has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”  There will be the first passenger flight tomorrow.

Thai Airways carries out Asia's first commercial passenger biofuel flight and rounds off successful year for SkyNRG | Thai Airways,SkyNRG

Passengers board today’s Thai Airways Boeing 777 biofuel flight (GreenAir)


The Nation December 21, 2011

THAI President Piyasvasti Amranand said that the experimental flight echoes the airline’s CSR policy. Under “travel green” concept, this flight is aimed at creating awareness among all parties on biofuels, particularly regional airlines which needs to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

“THAI wants to push forward jet biofuels development to ensure sustainable use in Thailand and the region. This needs cooperation from all parties, like oil companies, research institutes, educational institutes, and related public and private organisations,” he said.

Today, the airline launched Flight TG 8421, the first biofuels flight that welcomed the media, representatives from related organisations including Rolls Royce and Boeing. The first passenger biofuels flight, TG 104, will follow tomorrow. All proceeds will go to alternative energy promotion organisations.To promote awareness in greenhouse gases and climate change, 98 students will also join the flight.

PTT executive Saran Rangkasiri said the company was in charge of supplying 8 tonnes of biofuels for the flights, worth about US$2.5 million. It was imported from Sky NRG in the Netherlands which supplied the fuel to KLM and Finnair.

To Airports of Thailand, the flights are in line with the Green Airport policy. Aside from the green flight, AOT is turning it’s buildings into Green Building and using clean and renewable energy for all vehicles operating in the airport.

“Thai Airways International’s Asia’s first passenger biofuels flight confirms the airline’s commitment toward green travelling and the Thai authorities’ effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission.”


GreenAir online says :

The aircraft was powered in both engines by a 50/50 blend of used cooking oil sourced from the United States and conventional jet kerosene. Tomorrow, a scheduled passenger flight between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will use the same biofuel blend. The flights cap a high-profile year for Amsterdam-based SkyNRG, with THAI becoming its tenth contracted customer worldwide and follows similar flights by KLM, Finnair, Thomson Airways, Air France and Alaska Airlines.

SkyNRG and THAI have also signed a long-term commitment to actively participate in creating a market for affordable sustainable jet fuel.


and SkyNRG website at

They said they produced “sustainable” biofuel for Finnair and others, and that was  based on used cooking oil.  No mention of that here.

“SkyNRG has already contracted more than 10 airline customers covering all continents in the world. THAI is SkyNRG’s first Asia Pacific customer and sixth publicly announced airline customer after KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Finnair, Thomson Airways, Air-France and Alaska Airlines.

“THAI and SkyNRG also signed a statement together indicating their long term commitment to actively participate in creating a market for sustainable jet fuel that is affordable.”


Thai Airways to launch biofuels-based 777 service on 22nd December

Thai Airways will fly its first biofuel commercial flight on 22nd December.   Nowhere does it mention what the fuel is made from. All revenue from the first flight — TG104 Bangkok-Chiang Mai – will reportedly go towards an organization that furthers the development of alternative energy.

by Meghan Sapp
13.12.2011 (Biofuels Digest)

In Thailand, Thai Airways announced plans to power a commercial passenger flight using only biofuel. Commercial flights are planned to begin on December 22 for the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route.

A non-commercial flight on December 21 will host members of the press and representatives from various groups that support Thailand’s biofuel project including PTT, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, the Department of Civil Aviation, Rolls Royce and Boeing.

The biofuel-powered flight supports the company’s Travel Green initiative as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility activities. The first flight on December 21 will use a Boeing 777-200 plane.



The airline claims it is revolutionizing the use of bio jet fuel in Asia and Southeast Asia, which it hopes will kick start other carrier in the region to follow suit.

Thai Airways has received total support by petroleum producers, research firms, educational institutions, aircraft and engine manufactures as well as government agencies affiliated with the aviation industry to develop bio fuel for aviation in Thailand.

Revenue from the first passenger flight will go toward further developing renewable energy in Thailand.

All revenue from the first flight — TG104 Bangkok-Chiang Mai – will reportedly go towards an organization that furthers the development of alternative energy.

But although Thai Airways says it will be Asia’s first to fly a commercial flight using biofuels, Air China actually launched a test flight using the eco-friendly gas back in October, reported

Biofuel is sourced from non-fossil fuels, with two of the primary sources of fuels including starch to form bioethanol, as well as animal fats to form biodiesel.

As fantastic as it sounds in theory, many experts warn against relying on biofuels given the effect demand will have on global food prices and land use

There are more Biofuels Digest news items relating to Thaland and biofuels :


Atmospheric CO2 data

Read more »

Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand sign agreements with Australian company Licella to develop aviation biofuels

Australian biofuel company Licella (in Somersby, NSW) has signed a MOU with both Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand on their technology to convert ligno-cellulosic biomass such as wood waste, agricultural or farm waste, into jet biofuel. Their process uses a Catalytic Hydro Thermal Reactor (CAT-HTR) that breaks down pulverised biomass to produce high-quality bio-crude oil.



Wed 14 Dec 2011  (GreenAir online)

Australian biofuel company Licella has signed Memoranda of Understanding with both Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand to assist with the development of the Licella’s technology to convert ligno-cellulosic biomass such as wood waste into sustainable jet biofuel. The ‘supercritical’ water technology involves a patented process using a Catalytic Hydro Thermal Reactor (CAT-HTR) that breaks down pulverised biomass to produce high-quality bio-crude oil. The process has been developed over the past three and a half years at Licella’s pilot facility in Somersby, NSW, and today a new demonstration plant was opened. Virgin Australia and Licella will jointly explore and test the potential of CAT-HTR to produce aviation fuel with the aim of supporting certification and reaching a commercial off-take agreement. Under the Air New Zealand MoU, the two parties will explore the potential of the technology to produce aviation biofuel in New Zealand.


The process can use a wide range of biomass, including agricultural and farm waste, to produce the bio-crude. The pilot plant has worked with a range of energy plants and sawdust although in principle, says Licella, any lingo-cellulosic biomass can be used. The new Commercial Demonstration Plant has been part-funded with a A$2.4 million ($2.38m) Australian federal government grant under the ‘Gen II’ fuel programme.


“By pioneering the use of water technology, Licella’s CAT-HTR offers a clean, fast and cost-effective method of processing biomass,” said Virgin Australia Group Executive of Operations Sean Donohue. “We were particularly drawn to Licella because its activities support Australian jobs, rural communities and our natural environment.


“Our strategy on sustainable aviation fuel is to work with a range of stakeholders across the industry. This is because we know creating a financially viable biofuel will require a variety of feedstocks and processes.”


Donohue explained the Licella technology could potentially complement a variety of sustainable Australian feedstocks the airline was exploring. In July, Virgin Australia announced it was joining a Western Australia consortium that plans to use pyrolysis technology to process mallees, a species of eucalypt tree, into jet fuel (see article).


Commenting on the agreement, Licella CEO Steve Rogers said: “With the opening of our new, potentially energy game-changing facility, along with Virgin Australia’s support, Licella is on its way to achieving its goal of producing 500,000 barrels a year of bio-crude oil by 2015-16.”


Air New Zealand Deputy CEO Norm Thompson said his airline too was collaborating with a number of parties to research and develop bio-derived sustainable fuels, with a particular focus on growing a local aviation biofuel industry in New Zealand.


The airline was the first-ever airline to operate a sustainable aviation fuel flight back in January 2009 (see article). Along with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, it has been working closely for more than two years with Licella and Norske Skog, a Norwegian paper manufacturer.


Licella Fibre Fuels, a new joint venture formed by Licella and Norske Skog Australasia, holds the exclusive licence of proprietary knowledge and intellectual property for converting lingo-cellulosic biomass into bio-crude using the CAT-HTR technology.


Licella’s Steve Rogers hoped the JV would lead to the construction of a large-scale second generation bio-crude oil production plant in New Zealand or Australia.


“Our ability to be able to make a bio-crude oil which can be dropped in and blended with traditional crude is a key differentiator of our technology, as it significantly reduces the capital costs of its implementation and enables us to increase volumes over time,” he said.


Both Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) and the SAFUG Sustainable Aviation Fuel Road Map (SAFRM) Australasian grouping.




Virgin Australia – Sustainable Aviation Biofuel

Air New Zealand – Environment & Sustainability



Read more »

The inevitability of traceability in the oil and gas sector

In many sectors, such as consumer goods, food, etc, products have to be traceable and show their country of origin. Attention is now turning to oil and gas.  With the current controversy in the UK over the European fuel quality regulation there will be growing demand for greater transparency.  There are already some companies that have pledged to avoid using unconventional oil from oil sands. Pressure to disclose is increasing and the technology to trace crude oil back to its origin is emerging.


Companies are going to need to develop mechanisms to ensure products can be traced and sourced with sustainability in mind

Posted by Geoff Lye for the Guardian Professional Network

14 December 2011 (Sustainable Business Blog)

Fast-moving industries involved in the production of consumer goods, food, apparel and precious stones have all come under pressure about the provenance of materials, components and products in their supply chains. Many companies in these sectors have responded by developing mechanisms to assure customers and consumers that products can be traced and sourced with environmental and social considerations in mind. Such traceability has reshaped expectations of corporate accountability and transparency.

Attention is now turning to oil and gas. The sector is already facing a reputational crisis following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the WikiLeaks disclosures and recent events around the Keystone XL oil pipeline; and controversy in the UK over the European fuel quality regulation means that it is likely inevitable that there will be growing demand for greater transparency. As in other sectors, traceability will be a key feature of the rising tide of transparency and accountability, as businesses, customers and consumers become more discerning in their choice of fuel.

The growth of traceability within the industry looks set to focus on so-called “unconventional oil production”, which has greater environmental and social impacts than conventional fossil fuels. The evidence is already there that the trend of traceability is playing out in the purchasing decisions of some leading businesses. Retailers such as Timberland, Walgreens,and Bed Bath & Beyond have pledged to avoid using unconventional oil derived from oil sands. The Royal Bank of Canada, often criticised for its involvement with oil sands, has recently responded to pressure by adopting more stringent social and environmental standards on its lending policy.

To date the oil and gas industry has taken a rather predictable line of defence: crude oil is fungible and traded as a commodity, and it is not practical to trace a final product back to its source. The position has been enabled by the lack of disclosure from the oil and gas companies themselves regarding the derivation of their products. But this looks set to change as non-governmental organisation campaigns gather speed, developments in science and technology unfold and regulation kicks in.

ForestEthics is helping companies trace the fuel their shipping suppliers use back to specific refineries. Players like Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth and The Pembina Institute are highlighting the damaging environmental and social consequences of unconventional oil, and are pressuring both businesses and consumers on the oil sands issue.

Newspapers such as the Financial Times have reported on the participation of BP and Shell in unconventional oil production and the resulting shareholder inquiries into these plans. High street campaigns have also been targeting retailers, especially those that trade off ethical claims.

In parallel, emerging technology is enabling the traceability of crude oil back to its origin based on the product’s very specific chemical composition. The science has already been proven in the Gulf of Mexico where the chemical “fingerprinting” of oil following Deepwater Horizon, enabled investigators to determine that it indeed come from the Macondo well.

Regulatory action is another potential challenge to the sector. The European fuel quality regulation is set to designate transport fuel from tar sands as resulting in 22% more greenhouse gas emissions than from conventional fuels. According to the Guardian, this would “make suppliers, who have to reduce the emissions from their fuels by 10% by 2020 very reluctant to include in in their fuel mix”. Low-carbon fuel standards are emerging in markets around the world.

The overriding risk for oil companies is that, as traceability develops through market or regulatory action, they will be caught on the back-foot, defensively attempting to minimise the reputational and financial loss that can come from investment in unconventional oil. In the worst case unconventional assets will be downgraded by investors or even entirely stranded if markets discriminate against them.

The key message is to jump before you are pushed and competitive advantage is likely to emerge for those companies that sell “oil sands free” fuels with appropriate branding and verified sourcing. Either way, oil companies and indeed all sectors, would do well to explore the issue of traceability before it emerges as a major force in customer and consumer choice.

Geoff Lye is chairman of SustainAbility. The full white paper by SustainAbility can be downloaded here


Read more »

Qantas to fly first biofuel flights in early 2012

Qantas is planning Australia’s first biofuel commercial flight in early 2012, according to its CEO.  More details are likely to be released in the new year.  They aim to make 1.5% cuts annually in emissions by various savings, but believe only biofuels will enable them to make significant cuts.  Qantas has signed agreements with Solazyme and Solena.  Boeing is working with Hawai’i BioEnergy to see if biojet fuels can be made from sorghum (so much for not competing with food) and eucalyptus, to keep their tourists flying in.


Thai Airways set to operate Asia’s first commercial passenger biofuel flight, with Qantas to follow in early 2012

11.12.2011 GreenAir online)

Thai Airways is to operate Asia’s first commercial passenger flight to be powered using a biofuel blend.   An inaugural VIP flight of a Boeing 777-200 aircraft will take place on December 21 and the following day a scheduled passenger flight will fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  Details of the source of the biofuel and the blend mix have not yet been released by the airline, which says it is looking to pioneer the use of sustainable biofuels in Asia and Southeast Asia, and is encouraging other airlines in the region to follow suit.

Thai Airways President Piyasvasti Amranand said that sustainability was in line with the renewable energy vision of the King of Thailand and the use of biofuels would support the airline’s Travel Green initiative that was part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.

The inaugural flight will include representatives that have supported the jet biofuel project, including PTT, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AEROTHAI), the Department of Civil Aviation, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

Passengers, including 100 students and professors who have been invited, on the following day’s first commercial flight will be encouraged to take part in CSR initiatives, and revenue from the flight will go towards developing renewable energy in Thailand.

Meanwhile, Qantas is planning Australia’s first sustainable biofuel commercial flight in early 2012, according to CEO Alan Joyce. Seen as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, Boeing is to collaborate on a project that aims to bring renewable aviation biofuel production to Hawaii.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told a recent conference in Brisbane that the airline was currently improving fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year through fleet renewal, new technology, fuel optimisation and reducing resource consumption.

“While these initiatives can achieve significant improvements, only the production of sustainable aviation fuel on a commercial scale can deliver a generational step in emissions reduction,” he said.

Announcing the airline’s intention to operate a commercial flight powered by sustainable fuel in early 2012, Joyce added: “We want the flight to be an inspiration – a preview of a sustainable future for Australian aviation. This country certainly has the human capital, the finance and the resources to be a global leader in bringing new kinds of aviation fuel to market.

“But if we are going to achieve this, we will need strong and effective partnerships with both public and private sector players including airports. That’s how we will develop the overall infrastructure needed in Australia to support regular commercial biofuel flights.”

A Qantas spokesman told GreenAir the biofuel commercial flight was planned for February, with more details likely to be released in the new year.

Earlier this year, Qantas signed agreements with two US companies in the alternative jet fuel field, Solazyme and Solena, to assess the best sustainable fuel technologies. Feasibility studies with both companies are now in progress.

Meanwhile, Boeing has entered into an agreement with Hawai’i BioEnergy to identify biofuel sources and supporting technologies for producing sustainable jet fuel in Hawaii. The two will look at various crops including sorghum and eucalyptus as potential sources that can be grown locally and converted to jet fuel. The collaboration will also look to assess new supporting technologies for aviation biofuel production.

“As an Asia-Pacific gateway and leading tourism destination, Hawaii can play a meaningful role in helping aviation reduce carbon emissions, while increasing regional energy resources,” said Billy Glover, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy. “This collaborative effort will allow us to examine potential local options, while protecting the beauty and culture these islands have to offer.”

As an island state, Hawaii is currently dependent on imported energy but Hawai’i BioEnergy is leading the development of a local biofuels industry and is a supplier of renewable energy to the Hawaiian Electric Company.

“We are looking forward to working with Boeing in addressing Hawaii’s energy needs, particularly for aviation fuel,” said Hawai’i BioEnergy’s Chief Operating Officer Joel Matsunaga. “We have the opportunity to shape a more sustainable energy future for our children and generations to come in Hawaii while creating economic growth for the State.”

The company was established by three of Hawaii’s largest land owners and has backing from a number of venture capital groups, including Vinod Khosla. Khosla has also provided funding for respected biofuel companies such as Gevo, LanzaTech and Amyris

see also

Flights that have been fuelled by biofuels

for details of most of the airlines and flights that have so far taken place, or are planned.

GreenAir online Links:

Thai Airways

Qantas – Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Boeing – Sustainable Aviation Biofuels

Hawai’i BioEnergy




Read more »

Committee on Climate Change Review on future UK use of bioenergy

The Committee on Climate Change have produced their review on bioenergy.  On aviation it says:  Biofuels could play a role through the 2020s and beyond in supporting emission reductions from aviation, but this should not be seen as a ‘silver bullet’.  It says as well as bioenergy, “efficiency improvements and constrained demand growth will also be required. The findings of the bioenergy review will feed in to the Government’s new bioenergy strategy and to the Committee’s advice on the inclusion of international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets which will be published in Spring 2012.”

The press release from the Committee on Climate Change, on 7th December enttled

“Review highlights the importance of taking a sustainable approach to bioenergy, and of demonstrating CCS to meet carbon budgets”

is at

Carbon budgets will be very difficult to achieve without the use of bioenergy, and the
successful development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology,
according to a review of bioenergy by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The review concludes that a 10% share of bioenergy in total energy could be
required to meet the UK’s 2050 emissions target, compared to the current share of

Bioenergy would ideally be used with CCS, which would allow for the removal of
carbon from the atmosphere and for higher emissions reductions to be achieved.

The review suggests that a 10% share in 2050 could be feasible within sustainability
limits, but any higher than this could be unsafe given sustainability concerns – and
even at the 10% level, there may be trade-offs with wider environmental and social

In the report the Committee makes five key recommendations to the Government:

1) Regulatory frameworks should be strengthened to ensure sustainability of
bioenergy. Under current approaches, use of bioenergy could result in emissions
increases rather than emission reductions; particularly due to indirect land use
impacts (i.e. growth of bioenergy feedstocks can displace agriculture production
to carbon rich land). Therefore EU and UK frameworks should be extended to
cover these impacts. At the UK level, the emissions benchmark for use of
biomass in power generation should be made more stretching (i.e. reduced from
285g CO2/kWh to 200g CO2/kWh). These changes should be complemented by
agreement at the climate change conference in Durban on accounting for land
use change emissions under the Kyoto Protocol and any successor agreement.
Embargoed until: 00.01 on 7 December 2011 Issue No: 452)

2. CCS should be demonstrated as a matter of urgency. This is not just because
of its potential application with fossil fuels, but because of its use with biomass,
which would effectively allow the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
Without CCS, carbon budgets would be significantly more difficult to achieve, and
would require currently unforeseen technology breakthroughs or significant
behaviour change. Therefore the Government should move forward with its four
proposed demonstration projects without delay, setting clear milestones to
provide confidence that these will be delivered on time.

3) Government should regard targets on biofuels and biomass as flexible and
should delay setting any new targets until new regulatory arrangements have
been put in place to ensure the sustainable supply of bioenergy. In particular, if it
becomes clear that sustainable supply is below levels currently targeted, targets
should be adjusted downwards, rather than delivered in an unsustainable

4) Subsidies should not be provided to new large scale biomass power
generation under the Renewables Obligation. Such subsidies, recently
proposed by the Government, would be costly and unsustainable. The focus in
power generation should be on co-firing and conversion of existing coal plant,
and new small-scale generation, using sustainable local bioenergy supplies.

5) Other low carbon options should be developed given limited sustainable
supply of bioenergy. These include energy efficiency improvement, nuclear and
wind power generation, electric vehicles (battery and hydrogen) and electric
Bioenergy refers to combusting solid, liquid or gas fuels made from biomass
feedstocks, which may or may not have undergone some form of conversion

The Committee assessed the role of bioenergy both globally and in the UK and
considered how it might best be applied to help meet climate targets. The role of bioenergy in climate change mitigation is controversial and the review illustrates significant uncertainties around its use, in relation to:

 The emissions reductions that can be achieved through using it – It is hard
to account fully for all emissions resulting from the use of bioenergy and often
lifecycle emissions are excluded – so higher than anticipated emissions may be

 The sustainable supply of bioenergy – Population growth, coupled with
increasing wealth, means that in the next decades there will be an increasing
need for land to grow food. Growth of bioenergy feedstocks could risk displacing
food production. In addition, there are wider environmental and social impacts
associated with the use of bioenergy e.g. negative impacts on biodiversity,
natural habitats and deforestation.

Taking these concerns into account, the Committee assessed where bioenergy might
best be used to support the UK in building a prosperous low-carbon economy,
recommending that the following approach be taken across sectors:

 Power generation – biomass could be used alongside or instead of coal in
existing coal-fired plants. However, any role for new dedicated biomass without
CCS should be very limited given its high cost.

 Industry – There is scope to significantly reduce emissions from buildings by
using wood in construction as this would lock in carbon and replace high
emission building materials e.g. concrete, steel and cement. Biomass can also be
used in energy-intensive industries, alongside CCS, as an alternative to coal –
this would result in negative emissions.

Aviation – Biofuels could play a role through the 2020s and beyond in supporting
emission reductions from aviation, but this should not be seen as a ‘silver bullet’.
Efficiency improvements and constrained demand growth will also be required.

 Surface transport –there is likely to be only niche use of biofuels in surface
transport, which will predominantly require use of electric technologies to
decarbonise cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). This underscores the
need for Government to support development of electric vehicle markets now.

 A range of sensible smaller-scale local uses for bioenergy- this includes
using old cooking oil to run buses, making use of food or farm waste in anaerobic
digestion plants, or using woodchip from tree surgery waste in biomass boilers.

David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change said:
“The extent to which bioenergy should contribute to economy decarbonisation is
highly controversial.

Our analysis shows that there is a crucial role for bioenergy in meeting carbon
budgets, but within strict sustainability limits – and trade-offs with wider
environmental and social objectives may be needed.

Strengthening of regulatory arrangements is required both here and in Europe to
provide confidence that bioenergy used over the next decade is sustainable.
CCS should be demonstrated and demonstration projects commenced given the
crucial role of this technology when used with bioenergy to meet carbon budgets.

The Government should change its approach to supporting new biomass power
generation, which as proposed could raise costs with limited carbon benefits.”

The findings of the bioenergy review will feed in to the Government’s new bioenergy
strategy and to the Committee’s advice on the inclusion of international aviation and
shipping in carbon budgets which will be published in Spring 2012.



Notes to Editors
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC)
The CCC is an independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act to
advise the UK Government on setting carbon budgets, and to report to Parliament on the
progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

 The Bioenergy Review sets out the CCC’s assessment of the role for bioenergy in
meeting carbon budgets.

 The UK is committed under the Climate Change Act (2008) to reducing emissions of
greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050 in order to tackle climate change.

 Carbon budgets are 5-year ceilings set on economy-wide emissions set to ensure that the UK meets its climate change targets. The first four carbon budgets have been set by the Government and commit the UK to a 50% cut in emissions (on 1990 levels) by 2025.

 The review is supported by 4 technical papers which contain the full analysis and
evidence behind the chapters in the review.

 Bioenergy is produced through burning solid, liquid or gas fuels which have been made
from biomass feedstocks.

 Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is technology which involves capturing the carbon
dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels, transporting it and storing it in secure spaces
such as geological formations, including old oil and gas fields and aquifers under the

The CCC’s new report, the ‘Climate Change Review’ (December 2011) can be accessed


CCC press release at:



The RSPB welcomed this announcement


RSPB welcomes bioenergy review


The RSPB has welcomed the Committee on Climate Change Bioenergy Review released today.

Harry Huyton, RSPB head of energy and climate change policy, said: “This is an important and timely report. With the right policies in place bioenergy could offer vital carbon savings, but it also has the potential to accelerate the destruction of forests and other natural habitats and make climate change worse.

“The Government must take an evidence-based approach to the industry, supporting only those schemes that offer genuine climate benefits. The CCC’s new report sets out some urgent first steps to this position. Government must now follow this advice if bioenergy is to play a positive role in the UK’s energy future. If they fail to do so then public money will be used to prop up a fundamentally unsustainable, damaging industry.

“Critical to this is removing subsidies for large-scale biomass electricity.  Earlier this year, the RSPB published a review of proposals for such power stations in the UK. We found that 32 plants were in development and they planned to import 81% of the biomass they were going to burn – that means they would require up to 33 million tonnes of imported wood which will come from forestry markets in Canada, Russia and the US.

“Not only is this environmental madness, but the CCC have today shown that it does not make economic sense either. Offshore wind, for example, offers low-carbon, renewable energy at a similar cost but without threatening forests.”

The CCC have also suggested that bioenergy could supply up to 10% of UK energy in 2050, and that this would be within sustainable limits. They have, however, said that its role must ultimately be constrained by the sustainable supply, and that we should not attempt to meet targets if it becomes clear that they are unsustainable.

Mr Huyton added: “This is a clear message to Government that the role of bioenergy must be based on the amount of sustainable supplies available, and that it must not recklessly pursue it bioenergy targets if it becomes clear that they are at the expense of the environment.

“This advice is particularly pertinent to Government’s policy of subsidising biofuels in spite of the continued accumulation of evidence that they cause more problems for the environment then they solve. In Kenya, for example, the RSPB has been fighting to prevent a major biofuel plantation that would destroy a dry tropical forest, whilst in Indonesia palm oil expansion continues to fuel deforestation.”





The response from Biofuelwatch is at


UK Environmentalists: ‘Committee on Climate Change would sacrifice the world’s forests on the altar of our energy addiction’

Read more »