Massive increase in global biofuel production

Global biodiesel production has increased ten-fold to 10.9bn litres per year over the last eight years and could double by 2012, according to a new report.

The review of 21 key biofuel producing countries by the International Energy Agency’s Bioenergy Task 39 also reveals bioethanol production has increased significantly, from less than 20bn litres per year in 2000 to 66bn litres per year by 2008.

Much of the growth in both fuel types is happening in just three countries; the United States, Brazil and Germany, which together account for over half of biodiesel and more than three-quarters of bioethanol production.

The UK is ranked the sixth largest biodiesel producer at 347m litres per year, and ninth-biggest bioethanol producer at 153m litres, just ahead of Poland.

The IEA report suggests if recent trends continue, world production of biodiesel could top 20bn litres per year by 2012, while bioethanol production could exceed 90bn litres.

However, it acknowledges biofuel policies around the world are moving away from a focus on production capacity towards ways of solving questions over economic and ecological sustainability.

The UK government, for example, is investigating carbon reduction targets instead of volume targets for the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation beyond 2010/2011 and in the US ethanol production from corn will be capped at 56.8m litres per year from 2015 (22m litres more than 2008).

New conventional first-generation facilities in the US will also be subject to tight environmental regulations. Advanced second-generation biofuel production is expected to increase considerably from the 2.3m litres required in 2009 as a result.

Only Brazil has a “business as usual” approach to growing its biofuel production, but even here the report says problems with managing the waste from sugar cane processing are pushing people towards second generation technology.

Annual biofuel production

Biodiesel (million litres)

Bioethanol (million litres)

Germany: 3,180

US: 36,300

US: 2,650

Brazil: 24,497

Netherlands: 1,372

China: 2,448

France: 991

Canada: 870

Spain: 926

Germany: 730

UK: 347

France: 578

Australia: 260

Spain: 578

Austria: 252

Australia: 164

Portugal: 227

UK: 153

Sweden: 127

Poland: 151

Source: IEA Bioenergy Task 39

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