Renewable fuels could replace oil by 2050

Renewable fuels could replace mineral oil as the main transport fuel in Europe by 2050, according to a report published this week.

The 80-page document from the European Commission’s Expert Group on Future Transport Fuels said proven oil reserves were only likely to last another 40 years and an EU target to cut CO2 emissions by 80-95% by 2050 meant that uptake of alternative sources must increase quickly.

“Decarbonisation of transport and the substitution of oil as transport fuel have the same time horizon of 2050,” it said.

“Oil, the main energy source for transport, supplying nearly 100% of road transport fuels, is expected to reach depletion on the 2050 perspective. Substitution of oil therefore needs to start as soon as possible and increase rapidly to compensate for declining oil production, expected to reach a peak within this decade.”

The report said biofuels could technically substitute oil in all transport modes, but a number of other alternative fuel sources were also important. These included electricity/hydrogen fuel cells, synthetic fuels from biomass, methane from natural gas or biomethane, and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas).

“The next 10 years are crucial for this 2050 vision. The upcoming White Paper on the European transport policy for the next decade should outline a transport action programme until 2020.”

Meanwhile, the Renewable Fuels Agency has published a report on the second year of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

It shows that in the year to April 2010, almost 1.6bn litres of biofuels were recorded, accounting for 3.3% of UK transport fuels and exceeding the government’s RTFO 2009/10 target of 3.25%.

About 11% of the biofuel supplied in the UK during that period came from UK feedstocks, up slightly from 9% in year one. Of the UK feedstock, 58% was from crops – oilseed rape, sugar beet and wheat – and the remainder from by-products, such as tallow, used cooking oil and municipal solid waste.

UK wheat ethanol was supplied for the first time in 2009/10, following the opening of the Ensus plant on Teesside.

“New biofuel production capacity continues to come on line in the UK, and there are initial indications that prices for feed wheat in the north-east of England are starting to diverge from those in the rest of the country due to local sourcing of the feedstock for bioethanol production in that area,” the report said.

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