EurObserv'ER report characterizes European biofuel sector

By Erin Voegele | August 05, 2011

The EurObserv’ER has published its annual Biofuels Barometer, which measures progress made by the industry in the past year. Results show an increase in biofuel use in the E.U. over the past 12 months. The organization, established in 1997, is composed of engineers and experts and leads a consortium of five additional alternative energy organizations that support its research and analysis activities.

The report shows an increase of 1.7 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) of biofuel used in E.U. transportation fuel from 2009 to 2010, with an estimated total 2010 consumption level of 13.9 Mtoe. Growth in the last year was found to be slower than the 2.7 Mtoe growth experienced between 2008 and 2009. According to the study, future growth in Europe is expected to be driven primarily by countries that have not yet achieved their goals under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The study also notes that the growth of ethanol consumption outpaced the growth of biodiesel consumption between 2009 and 2010. This is attributed primarily to the introduction of E10 in several E.U. countries. “Biodiesel demand was curbed by the European-wide reduction of biofuel consumption and stunted growth in the main consumer countries,” the study states. However, biodiesel still represents nearly 78 percent of the biofuel used within the E.U. Other biobased fuels include ethanol, vegetable oil and biogas.

According to the study, Germany led E.U. consumption of biodiesel in 2009 with 2.224 Mtoe. France and Italy rounded out the top three with respective consumption levels of 2.041 Mtoe and 1.051 Mtoe. In 2010, Germany remained the top consumer of biodiesel in Europe with 2.281 Mtoe being used in the transportation sector. France also maintained its second place position with 2.139 Mtoe of consumption. However, Spain replaced Italy in third place with 1.193 Mtoe of consumption. Italy’s consumption level for the year measured 1.254 Mtoe.

While the biodiesel industry continues to struggle in the E.U., the report points out the ethanol industry is faring better, with an estimated 13.3 percent production increase from 2009 to 2010. While the vast majority of that production is first-generation ethanol, the report does make brief note of cellulosic technologies.

According to the report the Tereos Group, a French cooperative, is involved in developing second-generation biofuels. “Its work is focused on two major innovation areas and on optimizing processes—firstly ethanol production from [second-generation] sugar and secondly the production of new molecules by fermentation,” states the report. “Tereos is working on the Futurol project alongside partners such as INRA, IFP Énergies Nouvelles, Total, Siclaé, Lesaffre, etc. Its aim is to develop enzymes capable of converting lignocellulosic cells, including bran and straw, into fermentable sugars leading to second-generation bioethanols. In the research field, the Tereos Brazilian subsidiary, Guarani, has formed a partnership with American company Amyris to develop a new product, farnesene, obtained from genetically-modified yeast. This product will lead to the manufacture of biokerosene which has potential in the aeronautics market.”