Animal by-products are already highly regulated for all uses, stated Fuels Europe, after a study conducted on behalf of Transport & Environment (T&E) suggested that greater transparency was needed in terms of what is being used to fuel people’s flights. With the burning of animal fat biofuels set to triple by 2030, there might not be enough to scale it up sustainably, warned T&E in the conclusions of the study.
According to FuelsEurope, under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED), fuel companies are required to blend biofuels into road transport fuels currently around 7-10%. This requirement will increase, however, to around 20% by 2030. Currently, some of these fuels can be supplied to airlines as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
The limit was introduced precisely because of concerns of excess demand for these feedstocks.John Cooper, FuelsEurope’s Director General
According to T&E, European countries reported consuming in 2022 twice the amount of biofuels derived from the categories 1 and 2 as the animal fats industry reported producing, which could suggest that higher-grade category 3 animal fats are being mislabeled as categories 1 and 2.
FuelsEurope meanwhile states that SAF and biofuels for road transport in the EU have to comply with strict sustainability standards set out in the EU RED and all sources of supply have to be certificated and audited. National governments require detailed reporting of every batch of renewable fuel used in Europe for compliance with these regulations. “The latest regulation driving increases in SAF use in Europe, ‘ReFuel Aviation’ will set an upper limit, a cap of fuels from animal fats, at a level of 3% by volume in any batch of fuel,” explained John Cooper, FuelsEurope’s Director General. “This limit was introduced precisely because of concerns of excess demand for these feedstocks. T&E’s concerns have already been addressed in European law.”
1. Sustainable fuels market
According to FuelsEurope, the focus exclusively on pig fat is misleading and unrepresentative as regulations and the available production preclude this. Biofuel production is the result of the use of a variety of different feedstocks.
Agriculture residues, forestry residues, used industrial and cooking oils, vegetable oils, and waste such as municipal organic waste, or animal fats will all together contribute to the production of biofuels for transport. The animal fats used are by-products of the meat industry and typically the lower qualities will go to fuel use.
FuelsEurope suggests that as the regulated required volume of SAF increases in future years, production will be based on more use of forestry and agricultural wastes and residues.
2. Palm oil concerns
The use of palm oil in biofuel production is regulated, with a ban agreed for 2030 in the EU. Many fuel producers have moved away from palm oil, and the remaining share is made of certified sustainable palm oil in line with EU legislation.
According to FuelsEurope, there are advanced biofuels targets and sub-targets from RED, Fuel Maritime and ReFuel Aviation, these are achievable, and deliver a signal to industry to scale up their production.
Fuel manufacturers are investing in all potential technologies for the production of renewable fuels, with road transport as the lead market, bio and synthetic fuel production will steadily grow to meet market demand.