The industry will grow to 60.4 billion gallons a year between 2013 and 2017 representing a 3.2 percent annual growth rate, but this is a far slower rate of growth than the 19.6 percent achieved annually from 2005 to 2013, according to Emerging Feedstocks and Fuels Spark Biofuel Capacity Expansion through 2017.
The sharp decline is on account of a significant industry transition to novel fuels and feedstocks, to enable long-term growth in the face of impediments like the food vs. fuel debate and the imminent blend limits for biodiesel and ethanol, the report says. Next-generation biofuels – such as renewable diesel and butanol – that can offer higher blends, in contrast, are not quite mature, the report says.
Next-generation feedstocks like waste oils and cellulosic biomass are not tied up in the food supply and could unlock significant economic advantages, assuming novel conversions commercialize. Meanwhile, next-generation fuels like renewable diesel will break down current barriers and drive long-term biofuel capacity expansion, according to Andrew Soare, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report.
To quantify global capacity expansion of biofuels, Lux Research analysts built a database of over 1,700 biofuel production facilities in 82 countries with capacity data through 2017, besides evaluating leading technology providers. Among their findings:
· Ethanol’s dominance will continue.
· Renewable diesel leads next-generation biofuels.
· Growth of cellulosic ethanol will be slower.
Estimates for potential biofuel feedstock crop yields from some widely cited research studies may overstate those yields by as much as 100 percent, according to research by the International Council on Clean Transportation released earlier this month.
One key factor in developing a sustainable biofuels policy is to realistically estimate the amount of biomass that can on average be grown on a given amount of land to produce cellulosic biofuel. But Will energy crop yields meet expectations? found that the highest predicted yields, and associated expectations of how much biomass could be grown for energy, could not be supported by an overview of studies in this field