EU Biofuels Projects Multiply But Below Target
Author: David Brough
France unveiled plans this month to almost triple biofuel output within three years, bringing an additional 800,000 tonnes of biodiesel and ethanol production on stream by end-2007.
But France has already said it is two years behind an EU target for 2005 to have biofuels making up two percent of fuels. The country hopes to make the 2010 target of 5.75 percent.
Tenders for new plants across France will be issued and decided upon in around three months, Farm Minister Dominique Bussereau told the French parliament this week.
"The choices will be made quickly. It's a crucial decision which shows our agriculture is looking to the future, that it's capable of producing energy," Bussereau said.
Biofuels, which turn organic matter into energy, are seen as an environmentally responsible alternative to fossil fuels.
EU governments are trying to promote use of biofuels blended with conventional fuels. High crude oil prices and tough targets to cut greenhouse emissions are pressuring authorities to boost biofuel use, notably biodiesel derived from vegetable oils, and ethanol, which can be produced from grains, sugar or biomass.
Germany's biodiesel industry is currently working at full capacity, the association of German biodiesel producers said.
Unlike France, Britain, Ireland and other EU countries, Germany believes it is on course to meet the EU biofuels goal.
A spokesman for Germany's Environment Ministry said: "We are confident that we will reach the two percent target. The new rule we introduced last year on blending biodiesel with conventional fuel has significantly increased use."
In early 2004, Germany permitted oil companies to mix biodiesel with conventional fuels up to a maximum five percent biodiesel content.
Growth in sales for blending with conventional diesel fuel could rise from 15 percent in 2004 to as much as 40 percent in 2005, said association chairman Arnd von Wissel.
The association estimates Germany's 2004 biodiesel output -- largely made from rapeseed -- at around one million tonnes against 720,000 tonnes in 2003 and 550,000 in 2002.
With several new biodiesel plants coming into production, Germany's 2005 biodiesel output could rise to 1.4-1.6 million tonnes.
Britain is unlikely to meet its biofuel production target this year, but investment continues to grow, a senior official of US agri-business Cargill told an oilseeds industry conference last month.
The European Union wants Britain to ensure that two percent of all transport fuels come from biofuel in 2005, but the UK has set its own target at 0.3 percent.
Peter Smith, a manager at Cargill's UK refined oils unit, said current output was running at around 0.1 percent of all transport fuels.
Among the latest projects announced in Britain, a new biodiesel plant capable of turning recycled cooking oil and animal fats into fuel is due onstream in Scotland this spring, boosting output of the green fuel by up to 35,000 tonnes a year.
UK biodiesel developer D1 Oils Plc said on Wednesday it had started a joint venture project to produce biofuel in Saudi Arabia for export to Europe, using jatropha, a non-edible plant producing oil for blending with diesel.
Ireland will only produce 2,600 tonnes of the 100,000 tonnes of biofuel required to meet EU targets this year, Sustainable Energy Ireland, the country's national energy authority, said.
Irish transport would need to get two percent of its energy from biofuels to meet the 2005 goal but estimates show 0.06 percent is more likely.
"They are definitely challenging targets," SEI biofuels project manager Pearse Buckley said. "Our hope is that it will rise to 0.13 percent in 2006."
According to Janez Bedenk, executive director of ecology and quality at Slovenia's largest petrol trader Petrol, Slovenia was expected to produce some 80,000 tonnes of biodiesel in two to three years, sharply up from some 10,000 tonnes of biodie