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European Biodiesel Production Climbs 65% in 2005 to Hit Record

The EU-25 (plus 4 candidate states).

Biodiesel production in the 25 European Union member countries (EU-25) hit a new record in 2005, shooting up 65% from 2004 to 2005, an increase from 1.9 million tonnes to 3.2 million tonnes (about 966 million gallons) according to figures released by the European Biodiesel Board.

The European Union is the global leader in biodiesel production. By contrast, the US—the world’s second largest producer—delivered 250,000 tonnes in 2005 (about 75 million gallons—a tripling of its production in 2004.)

Biodiesel production in the EU-25 and US, 2004 to 2005. Click to enlarge.

In 2004, 2003 and 2002, European biodiesel production had risen 30–35% when compared to the prior year, marking a continued and aggressive expansion of the European biodiesel sector.

Although most production can be attributed to the EU-15 member states, with Germany the leader by an order of magnitude, the number of European countries with a biodiesel industry has nearly doubled in 2005.

Twenty of the 25 states are now producing biodiesel on a commercial scale, up from 11 countries last year. The EBB estimates that 2006 production capacity will reach 6 million tonnes.

Biodiesel represents around 80% of the EU biofuels production, ethanol being the other major component. Even with the surge in production, however, the EU did not reach its 2% biofuels target set for 2005.

Still, considering only EU diesel markets, biodiesel production got closer than expected to the 2% target, representing today approximately a 1.5% market share of the conventional EU diesel market in terms of energy content.



Hitting a record with a 65% increase is in the right direction, but let's not forget the prior year was close to zero.


To pull some numbers out of the air...

If we guess that a typical European motorist puts on 10,000 miles per year (in America, the number is 12,000 to 15,000), and gets around 40 mpg in a diesel car, then that motorist is consuming around 250 gallons of fuel a year. With 966,000,000 gallons of biodiesel produced per year, that almost 4,000,000 typical motorists worth of fuel.

Increase biodiesel production something like 30 times over, and get more European cargo off the roads and on the rails, and then we can say that biofuels have arrived.

However, conventional biodiesel (from soy) can be produced at the rate of 53.4 gallons per acre of farmland (footnote 1). To achieve 30,000,000,000 gallons of biodiesel, you would need to devote 562,000,000 acres of land to the cause. However, as Europe only contains 401,000,000 acres of farmland (footnote 2), this is not possible at present.

Making use of higher yield crops (such as rapeseed) and crops grown on marginal land that would otherwise not be in production makes the job seem a little more do-able. However, if Europe were to try to go 100% biofuel, they would probably have to both consume much of their forests and import biofuels from tropical regions. But enriching Brazil in place of Iran might be a better thing to do for geopolitical reasons.


Rafael Seidl

Even more so than in the US, a big part of the biofuels bandwagon in the EU is finding a new way to provide handouts to domestic farmers.

The WHO effectively forced the EU to stop mollycoddling its sugar beet farmers last year. They now have to shift to non-food crops because we cannot afford to keep paying them for twiddling their thumbs forever. Rapeseed is a commonly chosen alternative, but the biodiesel produced still costs twice as much as the mineral variety. The energy expended in tending and harvesting the crops is also substantial, though the overall CO2 balance is mildly positive.

Romania and Bulgaria are supposed to become members in 2008, if they can get a grip on their culture of corruption - both have vast areas under cultivation.

Therefore, if energy prices stay high until the EU's mid-term budget review in 2008, there is at least a chance that this subsidy shift from food to biofuels will be accelerated. Photovoltaic parks are another option for arid regions (Andalucia, Sicily, Peloponnes), easing pressure on CO2 emissions by the transportation sector. Sadly, getting rid of subsidies for farmers altogether appears to be just as pie-in-the-sky as raising fuel taxes in the US.

Importing sugar-rich or inedible oil seed crops from tropical countries (e.g. Brazil, India, Thailand) would make sense for the EU. However, they will likely want to use them to meet domestic demand first. West and East Africa could be source countries if the politicians there offer attractive investment climates - sadly, not a likely scenario.

Therefore, the EU will probably need to supplement primary biofuels with cellulose ethanol and BTL sooner than other regions. Increased biogas production could free up natural gas for CNG vehicles.


Looks like these folks clearly see that this is the only way to go in the short term.

Wish the US would put as much effort into biodiesel.

Harvey D.

NBK-Boston:... Thank you for the valuable information and limits on biofuels production to satisfy Europe's needs. Large areas of Africa could also contribute and bring much needed revenues to that continent. Using Jathropa plants to produce biofuels could further enhance needed revenues from very large unused areas in Africa and other dry unused lands in India, China, USA, Australia etc.

Shifting biofuel feedstock procurement to poorer countries could creat local employment and help them to raise their living standards, if they get a fair price. If not, biofuels could be produced locally and sold at world market price. This would geographically diversify biofuel production and reduce fossil fuel production, consumption and some pollution.

Max Reid

Africa has same population as Europe, but a very large land area. I guess they can produce fuel for Europe.

South America can also become a big producer.
EU's 65 % growth is impressive, USA had 200 % growth.
At this rate, they can grab a significant part of Auto fuel market.

its me

boosting efficiency to 75-100mpg will reduce the need of fuel;

and lets use BTL wit hexternal hydrogen,
we get 4-8000l of a hectare (100x100m)

(1 in = 1″ = 1000 Thou = 1000 mil = 1/12 ft = 1/36 yd = 25,4 mm = 2,54 cm = 0,0254 m )

how could such a modern state like US use crappy metrics

An Engineer

NPK-Boston, here is somebody who disagrees with your assessment:
Prof Kaltschmitt at the Institute for Energetics and the Environment in Leipzig has calculated that there is enough biomass in the EU-25 to produce up to 115 million t [~35 billion gallons] of synthetic automotive fuels every year.

The difference can be attributed to the following:
1. Technology: Biodiesel is produced by converting fat/oil (ChemSpeak: triglycerides) into biodiesel (ChemSpeak: methyl esters). Gasification/Fischer-Tropsch converts any dry organic solid into oil (ChemSpeak: hydrocarbons).
2. Feedstock: The good proffesor assumes the bulk of the biomass comes from currently available waste products, while you assume all has to come from oil crops grown exclusively for biodiesel production. Obviously, G/F-T not only uses a more diverse feedstock, it also allows for a better yield (gal/acre.y) due to the fact that the entire plant could potentially be used as feedstock, as opposed to just the oil in the seed, a small fraction of the total carbon in the produced by the plant.

The other big advantage of G/F-T is that the product (hydrocarbons) is chemically identical to existing fuels, and can thus be blended in at any ratio, without affecting anything. As Minnesota found out this winter, even a small fraction of biodiesel can foul things up pretty badly.

As you correctly point out, biodiesel is more of a feel good, achieve little technology. A nice project for the DIY crowd. G/F-T on the other hand, has some real potential.

gerald earl

I dont think that it is at all clear that this is the only way to go.Even with the quick ramp up two percent has not yet been reached.Coal to liquids{diesel}could under the right business climate be ramped up much quicker.This may be a necessary compromise until biodiesel,biomass,ethanol et al can mature to a significant percentage of the massive fuel required for a large and growing economy.Biomass makes green sense because the carbon that is absorbed during a plants {trees included}is released when it dies and decomposes.Under anerobic conditions the decay releases methane.Forest products waste stream could be diverted to fuel production.Forest fires could be reduced by harvesting forest litter {dead trees,underbrush etc}.This would reduce pollution from fires and or co2/methane release from decomposition.The litter could also be diverted to btl production.Perhaps working with forest products companies{lumber paper etc.}could benefit forest mgt.,forest products industries,cleaner fuel dvelopement and the economy as a whole.Im just trying to think of ways to bring different groups together to achieve common goals rather than being deadlocked in ideological warfare.

Max Reid

40% of the vehicle fuel in Brazil is Ethanol. It started 3 years ago and reached this level.

Every country can copy Brazil's experiment and generate atleast 5 % of their auto fuel from Ethanol.



Two issues. 1) Brazil uses sugarcane to produce ethanol. This crop has a very high energy content (I've seen figures of a 9:1) energy return. They run the fermantation plants off of the stalks (bagasse) in order to help achieve this. Sugarcane will not grow outside of a tropical climate. This is why we use cornin the United States.

2) Brazil's ethanol fuel program started in the 1980s, not three years ago. What is new for Brazil is the addition of FlexFuel vehicles, giving drivers more flexibility in the fuels they can use.

We might use that much ethanol IF cellulosic technologies become widespread. But otherwise, no.

gerald earl

Brazil started their program after the fuel embargo in the seventies.The program bogged down because policy was trying to push a program for which the technology did not yet exist.It was rejuvenated when the flex fuel advances were made a few years back.Brazil also has a much smaller hill to climb.We use far more fuel.Gas prices are spiking in part because of a scramble to replace mtbe with ethanol.I believe it needs to be ten percent of each gallon.We may have to import from Brazil to meet that ten percent.I will use e85 tomorrow if it were in my area.There is going to be an increase in diesels availlable next year so a diesel component in the basket of fuels seems called for.

fred dzlsabe

Think its safe to say the international bioD industry is far beyond "a feelgood for the DIY crowd". BTW ethanol can be used to replace methanol in bioDs transesterfication.


Actually, I did not mean to imply that biodiesel was a "feel good achieve little" solution. From what I've seen, biodiesel made using current technology is fairly net-energy-positive. Europe could easily ramp up to several billion gallons of production using locally grown crops, perhaps enough to get B5 or B10 blends into universal distribution within a few years. The prospect of further imports from non-traditional energy suppliers is also a good thing.

Breakout technologies like cellulostic ethanol and biomass to liquids (Fischer-Tropsch, thermal depolymerization) hold out the promise of an order of magnitude jump in potential domestic production in Europe and North America, as well as significantly increased net energy yields. However, it is my impression that these technologies are mostly not yet mature for the market.

Crop derived biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel) are perhaps the "first generation" of biofuels. They make sense and are viable on an industrial scale, but are not the long-term answer. That is the take-home message.

Prius for me

"Looks like these folks clearly see that this is the only way to go in the short term.
Wish the US would put as much effort into biodiesel."

Conservation is the way to go in now!
Market forces (sustainable innovation) will follow and hopefully in our lifetime.


Maybe this explains why Europeans aren't so eager to invade other countries
to steal their oil.


The most promising news for biodiesel remains in algae.
Soybean puts out a lousy 40 gall. or so a year, rapeseed 110 gal., while algae puts out at least 5,000 gall. a year, and is thought to be able to reach 15,000 gal. With #s like that we could power the entire U.S. transportation with Biodieselwith just 15000 acres if I remember right. Now if only they can get B100 (100% biodiesel) to work in cold climates.

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