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Report Finds That Biomass-Derived Ethanol in Europe Could Replace Up to 62% of Gasoline Consumption

Transforming agricultural residues into next-generation ethanol and biochemicals could create up to one million jobs in the EU27 by 2020, while theoretically replacing up to 62% of the EU’s forecast fossil-based gasoline consumption, according to a new study released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance with the support of Novozymes and DSM.

The study—“Next-generation ethanol and biochemicals: what’s in it for Europe”—explores the potential results of the development of a next-generation ethanol and biochemicals industry in the European Union in the next decade, and also the barriers to that development. The report presents two scenarios—base and aggressive (the “bull” case)—for the development of a bioproducts industry and compares them with the current development path.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that approximately 225 million tonnes of biomass should be annually available by 2020 under the base case scenario for bioproduct conversion. This total annual European biomass resource jumps to 270 million tonnes by 2020 under the aggressive scenario.

Agricultural residues contribute to 80% of the 2020 biomass residues supply, forestry 3% and MSW biomass residues 17% in the base case scenario; these proportions change to 79%, 2% and 19% under the optimistic scenario. The top five ag sources are wheat straw from the field, sugar beet residues, barley straw, maize stover, and rye residues).

In the base case scenario, next-generation ethanol supply could grow from 63 billion liters (16.6 billion gallons US) in 2015 to 75 billion liters (19.8 billion gallons US) in 2020. Due to greater biomass availability, in the aggressive scenario, next-generation ethanol supply could grow from 73 billion liters (19.3 billion gallons US) in 2015 to 90 billion liters (23.8 billion gallons US) in 2020.

The conversion yields for turning lignocellulosic biomass into ethanol, using the enzymatic hydrolysis technology, have improved dramatically in the past five years. Between 2010 and 2020 we expect ethanol production to increase by 45% in the base case scenario and 57% in the bull scenario. This is an interesting result, as the actual underlying biomass potential availability only increases by 3.9% and 11.9%, in the same 10-year time period. This outcome can be explained by our assumptions regarding ethanol yields from a tonne of biomass, which will improve progressively from 250 liters in 2010 to 300 liters in 2015 to 350 liters in 2020 due to further process efficiency improvements (see Figure 5). Technology and efficiency improvements in the next decade will therefore magnify any small growth in biomass supply potential.

We have assumed that 95% of the biomass potential will be converted into next-generation ethanol and the remaining 5% of the biomass potential will go towards biochemical production. Bioproduct diversification should lower the overall biorefinery operating economics. The ability of a biorefinery to alter the quantity of its outputs—in a similar fashion to Brazilian sugarcane mills—should reduce some of the project risk, as it can cater for different markets depending on the current price of the product.

—“Next-generation ethanol and biochemicals: what’s in it for Europe”

The authors project a relatively measured fall in gasoline consumption from 125 billion liters (33 billion gallons US) in 2010 to 101 billion liters (26.7 billion gallons US) in 2020 due to a decreasing EU27 gasoline car fleet. This trend is unlikely to change before 2020 due to competitive European diesel prices, they note. Since ethanol consumption is pegged to gasoline consumption, any movements in the gasoline market will have an impact on ethanol demand.

They also note that it will be technically impossible, under the current EU27 legislation, for ethanol to replace more than 10% of the total annual gasoline supply.

If the EU27 region wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate the development of a new industry, create new job opportunities and reduce its dependency on foreign oil it is vital to ensure that ethanol can technically substitute more than 10% of the fossil gasoline supply by 2015. That can be achieved in several ways, for example, the US is working towards tightening vehicle specification so they can use a 15% blend. Another way to achieve it is by promotion of the production of flex fuel vehicles. Two great examples of what can be done are Brazil and Sweden, where 90% and 25% of the new vehicles are FFV.

—“Next-generation ethanol and biochemicals: what’s in it for Europe”

As a result, they say, if the EU27 region is to realize some of its next-generation bioproduct potential then it will be very important to create an aggressive next-generation biofuels mandate. The study also calls for incentives for the collection of farming residues, as well as tax breaks for investments.




Nice headline. Would be nice if it could be true in the US.


100 billion gallons of methanol per year could cut our imported oil in half, but we need the M85 cars and fuel pumps.


One may pick various scenarios and arrive at very different conclusions.

If EU can supply that much liquid fuel from residues, USA could certainly do 3 to 5 times more.


What happens to the agricultural residue at present ?
They talk about it as if it is waste, which I doubt - someone is using it, or ploughing it back into the earth to keep the soil working.

Other than that, it sounds very bullish, and it would seem to be a safe bet to make new cars able to tolerate higher ethanol blends, assuming this does not cost too much.

There is a lot of "setaside" land in Europe, so that could be used to grow biofuel crops, if a market existed.

I don't have any numbers for this, however.

Note that in Europe ethanol has to compete with diesel as a large (and growing) number of cars are diesel powered (mainly due to low CO2 emissions and taxes based on C02 emissions).


Making biomethane from a anaerobic digester is about 4 times better at converting sunlight falling on a field into vehicle fuel.

Link below shows the lowest CO2 vehicle + fuel combination - biogas from a sewage works with the Passat Ecofuel


Half the biomass is returned to the field, but not all of it is needed. The DOE and USDA have estimated that there are ONE billion tons of biomass that can be used for fuel, taking into the account the amount that must remain on the land. At 100 gallons per ton, that totals 100 billion gallons of biofuel each year available which displaces almost 3 billion barrels of oil each year.


Page 2 of 20:
"-78% Residues left in the field;
-22% Residues used for ethanol production."

This is Novozymes showing the biomass potential similar to the studies of DOE and USDA which led to RFS2 in the US.

There is a new field of Biorefining which looks at it all in a systematic approach. Novozymes offers one possible path to convert biomass into biofuels and biochemicals.

There are other info in about other pathways under test in Europe their merits and tradeofs.

Similar to the fight to opens up the fuel markets in US with FFV and/or with the EPA waiver of the E15 use, they demand something similar. It's interesting.
"Europe has a unique opportunity to develop a EU27 next-generation bioproducts industry over the next decade..."

• The main barrier to the development of Europe’s bioproducts potential is the perceived investment risk in an uncertain policy environment with no clear incentives."

"Policy requirements
• The first priority for EU27 policy-makers is to introduce an EU-wide mandate for next-generation ethanol, along the lines of the one in the US covering the 2009-22 period ..."

Thomas Pedersen

There are two points I find interesting in this article:

1) It seems we can produce enough bio-fuel to run a fleet of PHEVs in the future without relying on fossil fuel.

2) It takes a million jobs to do so. On first sight, this is great because we need jobs and the money will go to European salaries instead of ME Oil Sheiks. On second thought, it's almost like saying that we can create 10 million jobs by abolishing tractors in agriculture. The more hands and intelligent minds that are occupied making basic necessities, such as food and energy, the less hands and minds are left to develop new Iphones. Because let's face it; that's where we throw our extra money, when we it. And all the money that goes to the ME for oil is not dug into the desert. And it's not all used for funding terrorism either. Most of it is re-invested in the West (a fraction as Cartier watches and Ferraris).

Bottom line, at least at first, a cleaner future with less dependence on fossil fuels leaves fewer hands and mind for creating cool stuff like huge plasmas and Iphones. But we need to do it nevertheless.

PS. The side-effects of using up all the biomass resources remains unanswered.


"with no clear incentives."

We need to provide incentives for the rich to become richer? In a global economy, if Brazilian T Bills are a higher yield than investments that need to be done and will help the home country, then forget it.


Meanwhile EU PHEV sales will continue to cut the demand for gasoline as the production of biofuel increases. The two must be supported simultaneously. This can be accelerated by a few large key contracts to fuel large fleets (rental cars, delivery, taxis, municipal vehicles.)

AND those same fleet owners should be encouraged to replace vehicles with new PHEVs which will require less liquid fuel over lifetime.

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