UK prioritizing waste-based biofuels, but RTFO revisions possible: official

27.04.2018

The UK wants to push the country's transition to waste-based biofuels, but some revisions are possible depending on how the market responds to the new increased Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, Rachel Solomon Williams, the head of Low Carbon Fuels at the Department of Transport, said Thursday.

"Waste-based biofuels are to be prioritized, but in a certain way -- we don't see waste-based and crop-based biofuels as exclusionary," Solomon Williams said at the the Platts Geneva Biofuels Conference.

The contribution of crop-based biofuels is also recognized, but DfT would like to see if the change to the RTFO total target will make the industry bring in E10 gasoline on its own rather mandating it.

The new RTFO took effect on April 15, increasing the overall biofuel mandate to 7.25% from 4.75% on a volume basis, with sub-targets for advanced and development fuels and a crop-cap of 4% to be gradually reduced by 2032.

The UK will be placing a strong focus on GHG reduction, trying to strike a balance between optimizing advanced and crop-based biofuels.

Solomon Williams said that a 0.5% target for advanced biofuels in 2020 is indicative and admitted that it is unclear where this would come from, with no registrations currently for advanced biofuels.

The DfT has tried to build in some flexibility into the RTFO and despite the uncertainty around the development of advanced biofuels, its intention is to signal its ambitions in this area, Solomon Williams said.

She also highlighted the different positions held by the European Commission, the European Council and Parliament, with double-counting and capping crop-based biofuels being the most contentious issues.

Solomon Williams said that the absence of an E10 mandate is not necessarily critical for the survival of the UK first generation ethanol producers, adding that a lot of the ethanol currently consumed in the UK is imported, while the UK producers also export some of their volumes.

"It would be too simplistic to say that switching E10 on or off will be an existential question for the two UK plants," she said.

The definitions of what will qualify as waste and therefore be double-counted in the UK has been the subject of much debate recently, with new specification requirements likely limiting the flow of French starch slurry based ethanol into the UK. The DfT is still trying to refine the definition of what qualifies as waste, but if this means less double-counted ethanol in the UK, it is unclear whether this will benefit the single-counted ethanol mandate or the double-counted biodiesel market, Solomon Williams said.

Adding to the uncertainty for the UK market are Brexit negotiations, with the possibility for the UK to leave the Customs Union. This would make the UK a T1 market, not requiring an EU duty to be paid, and would likely open up the market to a considerable amount of imports, especially from the US, a dire prospect for UK ethanol producers.


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