|China is planning on a surge in biofuels, especially biodiesel. Click to enlarge.|
China, already the world’s third largest ethanol producer, is planning on a dramatic expansion of its production and use of biofuels for transportation from about 1 million tonnes of ethanol and biodiesel in 2005 to 12 million tonnes in 2020. Twelve million tonnes of biofuels would represent about 15% of the transportation fuel pool in 2020.
In China, diesel consumption is twice that of gasoline. Therefore, of that 12 million tonnes of biofuels, China wants biodiesel to represent 8 million (about 2.4 billion gallons US), according to a recent report by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. With biodiesel production in 2005 at only 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes (30 million to 60 million gallons) that represents at least 3,900% growth in 15 years.
|Chinese consumption of diesel and gasoline. Click to enlarge.|
In 2005, China produced 920,000 tonnes of ethanol, 80% of that from corn. This year, corn is expected to provide 90% of the feedstock. Industrial consumption of corn in China represents 20% of the total corn demand, and of that, ethanol production accounts for 40%. The expansion of ethanol production to 4 million tonnes by 2020 would force China to become an importer of corn, absent a role for other feedstocks or production processes, according to the report.
The USDA report notes that sugarcane, sugar beets and wheat are unlikely feedstocks for the Chinese ethanol industry, although sorghum and cassava have potential. The ethanol industry will look long-term to cellulosic ethanol.
Generally, cellulosic ethanol is not commercial viable, but China will test this with the first cellulosic ethanol production plant up and running by 2008. [Earlier post.] When viable, in China, most production plants will retrofit current ethanol production plants for lignocellulose production.
Although the potential demand for biodiesel in China is enormous—as is reflected in the goal for 2020—China’s primary difficult it the lack of eligible feedstocks.
China is a net importer in all the major edible vegetable oils, the largest importer in the world. Coupled with the lack of fatty organic matter, the lack of land upon which new crops could grow exacerbates the difficulty of biodiesel production.
...Biodiesel’s future in China relies on three key factors:
Government support and NDRC defining a clear plan for expansion, not only for biodiesel production, but also for the harvesting of NGB crops.
Research and development to solidify technologies for production.
Defining and obtaining key organic sources for production. Potentials inputs include rapeseed, Jatropha nuts, switchgrass, sunflower seeds, Chinese pistachio, peanuts, sesame seeds, Barbados nuts, Fufang vines, Yousha bean, and Chinese dogwood nuts.
Rapeseed, the report notes, is a promising oilseed for biodiesel and is a potential source of biodiesel production for China. If rapeseed were planted during the off-season in the more than 29 million hectares left fallow in the central region of China (in the regions surrounding the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, and the Huai River) the harvest could produce more than 18.5 million MT of biodiesel.
China is also exploring Jatropha and Chinese pistachios, other oil plants, for potential biodiesel sources.
Biofuel development will impact on food self-sufficiency and food security, which has slowed the Chinese government’s development of the biofuel sector...If ethanol production remains as profitable as it is at present, the cultivation of crops for ethanol could displace food crops, reducing food production.
...If biofuel production and consumption continues in China, China may soon see a change in its trade balance. Already there has been a change in trade trends in biofuel feedstock such as corn, wheat, sugar, and cassava. China’s corn exports will begin to diminish, and various industry sources predict that China will become a net corn importer by 2008.
China, Peoples Republic of: Bio-Fuels, An Alternative Future for Agriculture 2006 (GAIN Report Number: CH6049)