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BP: Biofuels Could Potentially Account for up to 30% of Global Transportation Fuel by 2030

Based on announced targets and pending regulations, BP’s assessment is that biofuels could account for between 11 and 19% of the transport fuel market by 2030. The company also thinks there is a possibility, if the industry can address some of the land, feedstock and technology issues that exist today, for up to 30% biofuels penetration into transportation by 2030, according to Susan Ellerbusch, VP Global Biofuels for BP.

Delivering that aggressive quantity of more than 600 billion liters (158.5 billion gallons US) of biofuels by 2030 would require progress particularly in the area of cellulosic biofuels, Ellerbusch said in a talk at Platts 3rd Annual Cellulosic Ethanol and Biofuels conference in Chicago (9-10 October).

Other key factors would be an “unlock” that has to happen in terms of vehicles to allow for greater biofuels use in the market, as well as the development of the necessary infrastructure, she said.

When you talk about can it be 11, can it be 19, can it be 30 percent, a lot of it is going to depend on how we actually create sustainable biofuels. It’s not just about putting any biofuel out there, it’s about putting the right biofuel out there. Our view is that not all biofuels are created equal, so we believe it is a strong imperative to develop more advanced biofuels like cellulosic’s not just better biofuels, improved molecules or approaches. We’re looking for ways we can minimize the environmental impact, so we don’t get into the food vs. fuel debate.

—Susan Ellerbusch

BP formed its biofuels groups in 2006. Since then, the company has made more than $1 billion in investments, and the group has grown from an initial six to 70 people. BP is taking a three-legged approach to biofuels.

First is making first-generation ethanol “better”; to that end, BP is focusing on sugarcane ethanol. Earlier this year, BP announced a 50% stake in Tropical BioEnergia SA, a joint venture established by Brazilian companies Santelisa Vale and Maeda Group, which is constructing a 435 million liter (115 million gallons) a year ethanol refinery in Edéia, Goias State, Brazil. The joint venture, in which Santelisa Vale and Maeda Group would each hold 25%, also intends to build a second ethanol refinery, investing a total of approximately R$1.66 billion (US$1 billion) in the two refineries. The first ethanol came off the unit two weeks ago. (Earlier post.)

Sugarcane ethanol has a better greenhouse gas emissions balance, and has sidestreams coming off such as bagasse that can be used in boilers. BP is also looking at the possibility of that sugarcane ethanol becoming sugarcane butanol in the future.

The land being used by the JV in Brazil was degenerated pasture land, more than 1,000 kilometers from the Amazon. There is about 25-35 million hectares of such badly degraded land that could be a viable option for biofuels going forward, Ellerbusch said. Using that land for sugarcane production could yield an additional 40 billion gallons of biofuel—about 10% of gasoline demand today.

Second is a focus on more advanced technology molecules such as biobutanol. The BP-DuPont partnership on producing biobutanol is showing good results (earlier post), and the partners have demonstrated 16% blend rates with biobutanol versus a 10% blend rate with ethanol (Bu16 vs E10). The demo plant in the UK will begin producing 5 million gallons per year in 2009.

Ellerbusch said that BP is intent on bringing biobutanol into the US market in the next several years. It’s “not typical to introduce new molecules into the fuel chain”, she noted, and testing and approval will take some time.

Third is the focus on advanced lignocellulosic biofuels. Although there are a variety of conversion pathways under investigation, BP is focusing on biochemical fermentation as its cellulosic biofuel pathway of choice.

In August, BP made a $90 million investment in Verenium and formed a strategic partnership to accelerate the development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. (Earlier post.) BP is also collaborating with Mendel Biotechnology, a functional genomics company, on accelerating a breeding program for perennial grasses that can be used as feedstock for the production of cellulosic ethanol. (Earlier post.)

BP is also investing $500 million over ten years in the Energy Biosciences Institute with the University of California, Berkeley and its partners, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. EBI is initially focusing on renewable biofuels from existing and new crop plants for road transport. (Earlier post.)

Both Ellerbusch and John McKenna, Managing Director of energy investment bank Hamilton Clark & Co., who chaired her session, noted that the current environment, with the frozen debt market and plummeting equity market, is an excellent time to invest in companies in the advanced biofuels sector.



Biofuels do very little about reducing GHGs. They do reduce our importation of foreign oil. And, they may be necessary as a transition fuel until we can develop electric drive transportation and solar/geothermal/wind/wave power plants. The idea is to quit polluting the atmosphere by burning chemicals in it. Is that so hard to conceive? Damn!


According to a note posted here in GCC some months ago,
the bio-fuels that could be produced in available land worldwide could power 8% of the transportation that is currently powered by petroleum based fuels.
The above, according to a study from Stanford University.

According to the Energy Watch Group report, by 2030 world oil production will be about half of the current production !!
So if the Stanford study is correct, it seems difficult that the bio-fuels could power 30% of the world transportation despite increases in the efficiencies of vehicles.


You guys need to talk to Ceres - they believe that biofuel production on JUST 60 million acres will meet 85% of US gasoline demand....amazing potential here - and there is a lot of progress that can be made with genetically engineered bioenergy crops as well (provided the kook groups don't protest & influence government)...


Just out of curiosity, what kind of fleet MPG do these studies assume we'll be getting in 2030?

Personally, I expect to be getting about 6 miles/kWh by 2015 or so...

kum dollison

Actually, the Stanford study identified 1 to 1.2 Billion Acres of "Abandoned" Land. Considering the advances, recently made, by Ceres in Energy Crops Seeds, and Monsanto, et al, in aluminum toxicity, a yield of 1,000 gallons/acre shouldn't be too far out of the question.

So, if we cut that in half (to 500 gal/acre) we would still be looking at between 500 and six hundred Billion gallons, or about half of global transportation fuels. A bit more than 8%.

Of course this isn't taking into consideration another 20% approx. from Municipal Solid waste, or another 30% from current agricultural, and forest waste, or converting waste from industrial processes such as paper manufacture, or flue gases from Steel, and other manufacturing processes.



1 Billion of Acres = 500 millions Hectares = 10 times the size of a country like France about half the size of US, humm sounds a lot isn't it ? But anyway the potential of biofuels seems attractive only and ONLY IF the EROI is good enough something like 5 otherwise it won't be scalable, period. So I would like to see BP giving some insight about that. 2nd the problem of collecting all this problem is still to be solved, well the Brazilian are still harvesting the Sugarcane manually but we have to find something else.

Treehugger, France is, according to Wikipedia, about 675,000 sq. km.

Brazil is about 8.5 Million sq km, and

Africa is a little over 30 Million sq. km.

You could put 57 "Frances" inside Brazil, and Africa.

One area of Brazil, alone (the Cerrano,) has about 150 Million Acres of very fertile, fallow land. DR Congo, alone could probably power all of W. Europe.

Don't get "too" hung up on EROEI. When you have a hundred million starving subsistence farmers with nothing to do, and an unlimited amount of fallow land lying unused, eroei doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. Also, the industry is expanding it's "efficiency" so rapidly that you just have to spend more time analyzing the trend, and Not the present. 5:1 will be a piece of cake, in any event.


I hope you realize what size of land you are talking about ? I doubt that we can put this amount of land in highly productive fuel crop, the production of fertilizer and water won't keep pace. Where are you sources to assert that the trend in improving EROI would make 5:1 a piece of cake ? on all the websites of the start up working on biofuel very few mention their EROI so it is not a good sign, I think the problem of the EROI is a huge challenge and even a showstopper, I have no doubt that people on the verge of starvation will work on biofuel production whatever the EROI, the problem is that the net final energy will be peanut so we will be destroying rain forest, spreading fertilizer, killing life in rivers and in estuaires for little energy, sorry sir but I don't share the lightness with which you consider the scalability of biofuel. The intensive growth of corn ethanol is killing the gulf of mexico and depleting the aquifer for an EROI of 1.2-1.6 so I can't buy your inconscious optimism in that matter

"The intensive growth of corn ethanol is killing the gulf of mexico and depleting the aquifer"

How and why? In Mexico or US? Source?

When they say "fuel" are they just talking liquid and gaseous fuels? in which case there's probably a grain of truth in this projection because most of the miles driven will be electric miles.


This whole thread and no mention of algae??

John Baldwin

It has to be biomethane - this is s 2nd generation biofuel already acre of land that grows crops and makes vehicle fuel wil send a car or a truck much further on biomethane than on any other fuel. Now we have the new turbocharged Passat and Zafiras that run on 100% biomethane and MB are doing an entire biomethane capable fleet (B Class, Sprinter, Econic, refuse truck, buses already), we can go for it. All these other 2nd generation fuels WASTE too much energy. They are with drink driving and smoking, on the naughty step.


I think petrol, ethanol and spark ignition engines will all fade out in sync by about 2020 or earlier. By then most vehicles will run on either battery power or compressed natural gas. CNG will blend natural gas, biomethane and gasified/methanated biomass. That biomass won't use irrigation or fertiliser more like woody weeds plus some municipal garbage. When that runs out by 2050 maybe the economics of nuclear hydrogen and fuel cells won't be so unfavourable.

The 30% might be right but the 100% will be less than it is today and it is more likely to be gaseous than liquid.

kum dollison

treehugger, before you call other people "unconscious" you should study the history of "hypoxia" in the gulf. You have no idea what you're talking about.

Refineries like "Corn Plus" are already at in the 5:1 range, and the reason the bluefires, and coskatas of the world don't talk about eroei is because in's "unimportant" to their business models. The fact is they are setting up to produce most, if not all, of their process energy from the feedstock, itself, thus having virtually no "E" in the EROEI equation.


Wouldn't it be easier to build and use vehicles using 30% (or even 60%+) less fuel? or energy?

The same goes for home HVAC, appliances, computers, lithting etc.

Why do we (the end users) have to look for ways to consume as much if not more than now. That's what energy producers/sellers want us to do.

We could do more with a lot less energy. That's what we should be doing.



I won't lecture on you about energy but you should do some research on you, people who ignore the E in EROI will be bitterly bitten in the ass sooner or later, look at the Tar Sand they were telling the breakeven is 45$ 5 years ago, 2 years ago it was 65$ now it is 85$ and soon they will have to pay for the environmental damages and it will be even more, the problem is their EROI is too low, period so when the cost of the energy increase their breakeven moves away. The problem of the simplistic reasoning you apply is that you can turn a US$ in energy, unfortunately US$ is paper only, energy is physical, the modern world is fooling itself with that. The refinerie like Corn Plus may have en EROI of 5 but the overall EROI of corn ethanol is 1.6 and that's the showstopper.

black ice


I don't see the internal combustion engine disappear that soon as nothing yet beats the ICE powertrain in simplicity and energy density. The red-ox chemistry batteries have already approached the theoretical limits of storage densities, and the prototype cars have exposed the serious limitations such cars possess. A different type of electricity storage unit is needed for the electric car to be successful.
Oil and gas is going to last for a long time. Thus the growth of a sustainable biofuels industry that complements the fossils is a fairly logical development. Of course it will be localized to areas where the right economic conditions exist. For example, if I was living in an area where there is a lot of oil underground I would certainly work on extracting that oil rather than grow biofuel. However, if there are no fossils but a lot of biomass and people have nothing better to do, they might just start producing some biofuel. In the end, the rules of economics are going to win, the things will take their natural course.

stas peterson

@Harvey D,

I agree with you, but you should realize that for the past thirty five years the ONLY solution to petroleum and price dependency, has been efficiency and conservation approaches. Only now are substitution technologies becoming viable.

Despite the propaganda, we have come a long way on that efficiency path. The average US auto now achieves a CAFE rating of over 30 mpg, by the same measuring stick that rated a 1975 Beetle as one of the most efficient vehicles at 16 mpg, on the CAFE scale. Mileage that Suburbans and Escalades now almost double. On the EPA guesstimate window sticker scale, a '75 bug would be listed at under ten mpg.

Unfortunately, the easy conservation and efficiency gains have already been undertaken. Each incremental improvement now takes and increasing effort; until we succeed in wringing out all the efficiency to be gotten from a given technology.

For the ICE engine, that end is in sight. Add GDI and HCCI and that is about it. OTOH, for the HVAC and refrigeration market, my 17 SEER has not much more to achieve. It is almost the best that can be done, and I get hot water essentially for free too, while improving the delta T efficiency some more.

Nitwits seem to think that they can endlessly go to the same well, and get all they want. Sooner or later the well runs dry. The Green wackos have gone one time too many to the automakers and demanded that they open their purses, and spend billions developing technology that they simply desire, with no concern to rationality of schedule or benefit reality.

Now every automaker in the world, both foreign and domestic is losing money hand over fist, and that well has run dry. TANSTAAFL.

Thankfully, we will be abandoning the ICE approach, replacing it electricity over the next few decades. Electric generation methods are there to enable lots of clean electricity, a tiny portion will even come from the official "renewables", unrecognized warts and all. But most will come from Nuclear fission, then Fusion and clean coal will contribute efficiency gains, too.

But the transition, while exhiliarating, will have many bumps along the way.

Kum Dollison

No, Treehugger; that's NOT the "showstopper." Industries become "More" efficient, not less. The industry is moving "Toward" the Corn Plus model, not away from it.

As for "cellulosic," I think I said it poorly. The cellulosic processes will have virtually NO energy "Inputs." The process energy is obtained by burning, or gasifying, the lignin in the feedstock. This will give them an "Extremely High" EROEI.

And, Tar Sands? Incredibly "energy/water intensive," and and environmental disaster. No comparison possible.

If you want a template for the "future" of corn ethanol research Poet's "Project Liberty." In a few years their refineries will be well on their way to a very high eroei.

Kit P

“When you have a hundred million starving subsistence farmers with nothing to do, and an unlimited amount of fallow land lying unused, eroei doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot.”

That’s right. EROEI is a criteria made up by the parasite class like some college professors and all journalists to describe what they do not like about how the producing class makes what they use. BTW treeguggar what is the EROEI on what you produce?

Joe Valtinson

BP missed the boat. Make gasoline, jet fuel, ethanol and diesel from algae on desert land with proven Valcent(R) technology. (OTCBB - VCTPF)


@Treehugger: "The refinerie like Corn Plus may have en EROI of 5 but the overall EROI of corn ethanol is 1.6 and that's the showstopper."

Corn ethanol is over. 95% corn refineries are converting to cellulosic.

@Harvey: "Why do we (the end users) have to look for ways to consume as much if not more than now. That's what energy producers/sellers want us to do."

One good reason to diversify the energy production base. The greater the number of energy resources the less political and market leverage any one has.

As to conservation we have come a long way from the earliest days of refrigeration and heating. Present day Energy Star rated appliances utilize a third to half less electricity they did twenty years ago. Still there is more to do - just in the arena of hot water alone we could see 20-30% improvement by going to tankless and solar supplemented systems. And there are other means of quick heating water that exploit the chemistry of water itself - to astonishing advantage.

The global transition to electrified transport will greatly increase total electric consumption per capita. However, if that electric is generated from renewable, clean resources, it is far less problematic.

Oddly, the greatest energy problem of the future may not be meeting increasing demand - it may be learning how to distribute an abundance of energy to 70% of a global population that has never had it.



Industry are becoming more efficient ? is that always true ? I don't think so, EROI in the oil industry was 100 in 1860 then drop to 20 in the 80s, not we are at 3 with heavy oil, so ? the same is true for all the mining industry by the way.

when you say you we are going to burn the lignin to power the cellusic process then EROI doesn't matter, I don't agree since you could use this energy to heat home, make electricity or whatever that could be highly valuable. When it comes to use enormous amount of land to make biofuel then the EROI matters a lot, because if it is low it will means, more land required, more forest destruction, more water, nore fertilizer and associated pollution.

95% of refineries converting to cellosic ? ah there is commercially available process of cellosic ? didn't know that



I partly agree with you except for the claimed great gain in efficiency of the typical USA ICE vehicle (i.e Ford V-8, F150 etc)

In reality, the mpg gain has been next to NIL in the last 50 years for that great vehicle that so many Americans want/like to drive.

More is probably going to be achieved in the next 10/15 years than in the last 50/60 years with regards to vehicle efficiency. Future electrified vehicles will be lighter and much more efficient (well over 100 mpg equivalent) versus about 17/18 mpg for the number one seller today.

I fully agree with you that much more electrical energy will be required and that nuclear will play a major role. Clean coal power plants NO NOT exist. It is more of a misinformation strategy by the coal industry. It may be more appropriate to convert coal into syngas (in a closed environment) and use the existing NG pipeline network to distribute it across the country for the next 100 years or so.

b cole

Algae may be the best alternative solution. It is totally renewable, does not affect the food channel and eats co2. You may want to check out:

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