Biofuels Update – May 2011

2011-05-01 15:20
The world's population is expected to grow by 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food is expected to grow by 70%

The world’s population is expected to grow by 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food is expected to grow by 70%.

On April 20 this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched its ambitious Technology Roadmap Biofuels for Transport in Washington DC. The roadmap envisages an internationally co-ordinated plan to achieve a sustainable production of 750 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent) by 2050. If achieved, biofuels will hold a 27% share of total transport liquid fuels. Currently, using the same measure, biofuels has a 2% share.

From an emissions point of view, the IEA suggests 2,1 gigatons of CO2 will be removed from transport. If a sustainable plan can be achieved, 100 million hectares of land will be needed to supplement production. Although this is just 2% of total agricultural land, it is a threefold increase when compared with today. Governments would need internationally aligned mandatory sustainable standards for biofuels to avoid barriers to trade. Alignment needs to be with agriculture, forestry and rural development. In other words, a land use management strategy to avoid land use changes with negative impacts.

The roadmap calls for international co-operation to ensure developing countries can successfully adopt sustainable biofuels production, capacity building and technology transfer. The technology roadmap sees feedstocks mainly from lignocellulosic biomass such as wood, straw, residues and waste. Ways to protect food security are mentioned but not discussed.

The world population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food is expected to grow by 70%. The IEA says up to US$13-trillion over the next 40 years will be needed if the roadmap is to succeed. The report has much more information and data. It is a must read for biofuels producers, investors and government departments. Hopefully it is not just a humungous wish list that attracts the world’s rejected guests and carpetbaggers. Go to the website for more facts and figures.>.

Talking to one of South Africa’s largest and respected road transport companies, we were given confirmation that in spite of properly managed blending of biodiesel (a 5% blend), challenges with polymerising and gumming arises. This leads to more frequent filter changes and in some cases, shorter service intervals. The assessment of such occurrences brings focus once again on the need for access to quality biodiesel that is consistently produced according to an approved specification. Readers will recall the long list of tests detailed in the last edition of FuelWatch (Feb 2011) that locally produced and imported biodiesel must be subjected to before confirmation that the product complies with SANS 1935 (2004).

To assist biofuels producers, especially small volume producers and end users, SABS has published SANS 833 (full title is Biodiesel production , Quality management , Producer Requirements) to manage the quality requirements in a more cost effective way. SANS 833 ensures biofuel products are fit for purpose for the desired market and allows frequent testing of certain aspects and other quality management requirements. The standard can be used to ensure the product you are producing or using is fit for purpose. If you are using a biodiesel blend, make sure the claimed spec and quality are consistently achieved. More detail about SANS 833 can be obtained by emailing


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