Recent trends of  bioenergy, lignocellulosic raw materials and grasslands for advanced biofuels, biopower, pulp and biogas show promising perspectives in 2013.  The industry requires  lower costs and some trends show  promising alternatives in a new paradigm which most recent developments in 2012/2013 are here enlisted and analyzed.

Since 1st generation biofuels started to be criticized in the last decade, more and more lignocellulosic raw materials for heat, electricity and advanced biofuels have became a more serious alternative to consider. Sustainability production, landscape and land use integration and avoiding food disruption or enhancing food crops and food security by promoting renewable energies, are all key issues regarding biomass and bioenergy.

In 2012/2013, most trends show a clear tendency towards the need to reduce biomass and feedstock costs. More certifications are coming up and a more sustainable production pattern is the focus of researchers and companies.

Biopower and advanced biofuels are on the edge of lignocellulosic raw materials.  Producing high yielding energy crops and reducing costs for straw, bagasse and other raw materials is a major concern in order to increase the viability of a biobased industry that will surely grow in the next decade.

In this post, we have included some of the latest information including scientific reports, list of facilities and relevant projects that show current trends for the sector in 2012/2013.

1) 1st generation: Biodiesel and bioethanol. Current trends.

Three quarters of the 27.9 billion gallon global biofuels market of 2012 was for bioethanol, with the remaining quarter consisting of biodiesel sales. The U.S. and Brazil dominate the bioethanol market, with the two countries accounting for 85% of production and 82% of global consumption. This makes the global fuel ethanol market very reliant on the markets of these two countries, a difficult prospect since Brazil’s bioethanol market has been in decline since 2009 and the U.S. market has stagnated since 2010. In the U.S., the biggest issues are the “blend wall”  and the poor corn harvest of 2012. In Brazil, a combination of successive poor sugarcane harvests, strong international sugar prices and a smaller domestic price spread between ethanol and gasoline has seen a growing number of motorists choosing to use gas rather than ethanol for their flex-fuel vehicles in the last four years.

EIA 2013 report

Europe, spearheaded by Germany and France, is the largest biodiesel producer in the world, as well as the largest market. However, market growth for biodiesel has slowed considerably since 2009 as EU policy moves away from supporting biofuels produced from food feedstocks such as rapeseed oil, while domestic biodiesel production has declined since 2010 because of the influx of cheaper biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia. New regulations coming into effect in 2013 will limit the amount of mandated biodiesel producers can make from food crops, and will cause depressed conditions for the region’s biodiesel market through to 2020.

The forecast for the global biofuels market over the next decade is one of only single digit growth, as consumption in the U.S. and Brazil for bioethanol, and consumption in the EU for biodiesel, experience only modest gains. Less political support for biofuels in most of the key regional markets for both bioethanol and biodiesel is going to slow growth of the global biofuels market through the next decade and result in a total of 41.7 billion gallons sold in 2022, a CAGR of just 4.0% between 2013 and 2022.
Concerns on environmental aspects of 1st generation biofuels continue to increase as some of the following articles have shown in recent months:


2) 2nd generation (Advanced biofuels)


Lignocellulosic crops like Napier grass start to be a realistic option for less fertile tropical areas and also in rotation with sugarcane, Ethanol pulp, biogas and power are all possible energy uses

Despite a relatively down year with respect to investment and production capacity expansion, the biofuels industry grew modestly in 2012, continuing a shift from first generation facilities to next generation, advanced biorefineries.

Advanced biofuels are the latest trend in the biofuels industry these days. Scientists all over the world are trying to create fuel from the unlikeliest of materials. Waste materials, chicken feathers, plastic bags, wood, and many other sources are being used to create a next generation of biofuels known as advanced biofuels.

Energy crops and particularly grasslands are also a trend topic and have clearly gained much more acceptance in the last year. We showed in other posts the several benefits of perennial crops for biogas, energy plantations for marginal areas and grasslands for bioenergy uses.

The International Energy Agency Bioenergy Task 39 group recently (2013) published a report that outlines progress on more than 100 advanced biofuel projects under development worldwide.  The document points out that production capacity for lignocellulosic biofuels has tripled since 2010, with current capacity reaching approximately 140,000 metric tons of fuel per year.  The production capacity of hydrotreating technology has also multiplied, reaching nearly 2.19 million metric tons per year. Still, the industry has faced several challenges, and as expected, some projects have failed.Several types of projects are included in the scope of the report, including those manufacturing biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass, plant oils, sugar molecules and carbon dioxide feedstocks. Algae biomass projects are not included in the analysis.

A good interview to a member of the “National Advanced Biofuels Consortium” by Energy Insider is also worth reading. It is mostly on last trends, potential, current status and barriers for advanced biofuels.  And yes, feedstock and reducing production costs is a trend.
See more about this in this report: “Biomass 2013: How the Advanced Bioindustry is Reshaping American Energy“. And s
ome news from Biofuel Digests we also recommend can be found  here.

Last trends on Algae biofuels show that the industry is getting funds and growing fast but big steps are required to go forward. Some evidences show that a skeptical trend  coming up to scale up facilities and avoid environmental impacts in the meantime. Read about that in recent news here:.
From Slime to Dollar Signs? Algae have potential, but there are challenges to overcome.
-Renewable Diesel from Algal Lipids: An Integrated Baseline for Cost, Emissions, and Resource Potential from a Harmonized Model
-Micro-algae cultivation for biofuels: Cost, energy balance, environmental impacts and future prospects 


3) Solid biomass for power and heating (2013)

Short rotation coppice

Short rotation coppice

With the current global focus on routes towards low and zero carbon economies, on-site community scale renewable heat and power generation is gaining increasing attention.

The market for biomass power plants continues to boom. Between 2007 and 2011, more than 750 biomass power plants with a capacity of over 8,200 MWel went operational – more than ever before. This growth will even accelerate in the years to come. Approximately another 820 power plants with a capacity of 12,500 MWel will be commissioned by 2016.

The energetic use of solid biomass such as wood will increase to a larger extent than ever before in the years to come. At present, more than 2,200 biomass power plants are operational throughout the world. They have a total capacity of about 32,000 megawatts (MW). In Europe alone, there are more than 1,100 active biomass power plants. Another 130 coal power plants co-incinerate biomass.

The internationally increasing subsidisation of renewable energies is the main reason for this growth. Biomass has a special status among the renewable energies as generating energy from biomass follows the demand – contrary to the energetic use of sun, wind and water.

The trend for developing biomass follows the trend for developing renewable energies. More and more countries introduce feed-in tariffs for electricity from biomass. The increasing prices for fossil energy sources, the fact that many countries aim at increasing the use of domestic raw materials and the introduction of CO2 certificates for fossil fuels in Europe have over the past years improved the competitiveness of electricity generation from biomass.

The third edition of the study from ECOPROG (see report) analysed the worldwide market for electricity generation from solid biomass. They have elaborated it in cooperation with energy agencies, public authorities and associations as well as with operators and plant manufacturers from the segment of electricity generation from biomass.

United States markets: In 2013, EIA predicts slight increase in biomass power production for United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the February 2013 issue of its Short-Term Energy Outlook. According to the outlook, EIA expects total electricity generation across all sectors to increase by 0.5 percent in 2013 and 0.8 percent in 2014.

Europe: Europe consumed 13m tonnes of wood pellets in 2012, according to International Wood Markets Group, a Canadian company. On current trends, European demand will rise to 25m-30m a year by 2020. International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report from June 2012, provides a good start to read and be informed on last developments of biobased industries. Feedstock source is on the edge and most recent developments showed that reducing biomass and energy plantation costs will be a serious aspect to address in the next years.

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) expects that energy crops and especially perennial energy crops due to their environmental benefits will be allowed to grow on ecological focus area and that there will be sufficient support available for bioenergy under rural development as the EU relies on agriculture to meet 2020 RES targets. See here the report.

Finally, a new research study released by IHS Emerging Energy Research predicts that the biomass market will grow by 30 GW between 2012 and 2035 representing 6% of the additional renewable energy capacity in the EU.
More information, scientific articles and reports showing these trends in 2012/2013 can be read from here: