EPA qualifies new biogas and electricity pathways for cellulosic biofuel requirement under RFS; defers decision on other proposed pathways
In a newly released rule, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has clarified the number of cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs, earlier post) that may be generated for fuel made with feedstocks of varying cellulosic content; qualified additional fuel pathways to meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the National Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program; and clarified or amended a number of RFS program regulations that define terms or address registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. The final rule also clarifies that EPA considers corn kernel fiber to be a crop residue.
However, the final rule differs in several ways from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking EPA had issued in June 2013 (earlier post):
EPA did not finalize proposed compliance requirements for non-RIN-generating foreign renewable fuel producers and the definition of “producer” for renewable CNG/LNG and renewable electricity.
EPA also did not finalizing the proposed advanced butanol pathway; the proposed pathways for the production of renewable diesel, naphtha and renewable gasoline from biogas; the definition of responsible corporate officer, or the proposed amendments to compliance related provisions in Section 80.1452 (requirements related to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS)).
EPA said it was deferring a final decision on these matters until a later time.
The new rule action qualifies the following as cellulosic and advanced fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS):
Compressed natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal waste water treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters;
Liquefied natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal waste water treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters; and
Electricity used to power electric vehicles produced from biogas from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters.
EPA suggested that these pathways may provide “notable” volumes of cellulosic biofuel for use in complying with the RFS program, since significant volumes of advanced biofuels are already being generated for fuel made from biogas. In many cases this same fuel will qualify for cellulosic RINs.
The approval of these new cellulosic pathways could have an impact on EPA’s projection of 2014 cellulosic biofuel volumes in the final 2014 RFS standards rulemaking. EPA noted the possibility of such an impact in its proposed rule. Many of the changes in today’s rule will facilitate the introduction of new renewable fuels under the RFS program. By qualifying these new fuel pathways, this rule provides opportunities to increase the volume of advanced, low-GHG renewable fuels—such as cellulosic biofuels—under the RFS program.
EPA’s analyses show significant lifecycle GHG emission reductions from these fuel types, as compared to the baseline gasoline or diesel fuel that they replace.—“Regulation of Fuels and Fuel Additives: RFS Pathways II, and Technical Amendments to the RFS Standards and E15 Misfueling Mitigation Requirements”
Among the other amendments to the RFS program under the new rule are:
Use of crop residue as renewable fuel feedstock.
EPA is modifying the definition of small refinery so that the crude throughput threshold of 75,000 barrels per day must apply in the most recent full calendar year prior to an application for hardship.
EPA is changing the threshold for small blenders of renewable fuels that want to delegate renewable identification numbers (RIN) responsibilities from 125,000 gallons to 250,000 gallons.
EPA is specifying that the agency may deactivate a company registration if a company has reported no activity in EMTS for twenty-four calendar months.
The use for registration purposes of “nameplate capacity” for certain production facilities that do not claim exemption from the 20% GHG reduction threshold.
EPA also used the new final rule to make various changes to the misfueling mitigation regulations for gasoline that contains greater than 10 vol.% ethanol and no more than 15 vol.% ethanol (E15) and to the survey requirements associated with the ultra-low sulfur diesel program.