For this video podcast, I spoke with Alba Soler Estrella, Science Associate Low-Carbon Pathways, at Concawe, the European refining industry’s scientific and technical body, Dr. Calliope Panoutsou of the Imperial College London Consultants and Dr. Kyriakos Maniatis, recently retired from the European Commission, DG Energy about “Sustainable Biomass Availability in the EU to 2050.” The study, commissioned by Concawe, showed that the total EU potential sustainable biomass availability (agriculture, forestry and biowastes) is more than sufficient to supply feedstock for all bio-based markets, (bio-materials and bioenergy sectors), including bio-liquid fuels to aviation, maritime and a share of road transport. Following are a couple of excerpts from our discussion, which you can view or download below, or listen to in ITunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts or TuneIn.
“The main question we always received from the Commission and all other stakeholders debating on the decarbonization of transport when we would talk about biofuels as being important to achieving decarbonization in the transport sector would be ‘Do you think there will be enough sustainable biomass to produce that big amount of biofuels?’ Because take into account that it’s not only the transport sector who will use biomass to decarbonize. There are many other sectors, such as the bio-materials, power or industrial sector, that they are also looking into biomass to decarbonize. And we need the biomass to be sustainable and to not impact the biodiversity. So the question would always be, ‘Do you think that this is feasible?’ Some months ago, we could only rely on external studies and we were not really able to answer this. That’s why we started the study with Imperial College of London, and now we have a clear answer.”
“I was positively surprised to find out that even with the very conservative assumptions that we have in the low scenario there is enough biomass. For forest biomass, for example, current use for energy in Europe is approximately 45%. We restricted it to 25% for the future. From the sustainable potential of marginal unused abandoned land, we used only 25%. Still, the amount of biomass on the ground was sufficient to meet the targets set by the automotive industry.
Moreover, we have to make clear that the study didn’t account for all biomass feedstocks types included in REDII Annex IX, Part A and B, as there were no statistical time series available. So we didn’t even use the list of all allowable feedstocks. Even with the limited number of feedstocks, and with these restricted assumptions, we measured and modeled that the potential is there.”
“What surprised me is when I would look at the technologies and how long it takes for these to reach the market. I realized it basically takes approximately between eight to 15 years before a technology that started in the lab can be deployed in the market. And this, it’s something very practical. The problem is that the policymakers and the politicians don’t understand this.
So if they put in the legislation that we’re going to have so much percent of, let’s say, e-fuels by 2030, they don’t realize that probably it’s not going to be there on time. Now, of course there’s a lot of progress that has been achieved in all the technologies. But it’s not so easy because you put legislation that technology is going to follow the legislation. It needs time, it needs investment and it needs a lot of efforts from the technology developers and several stakeholders of the community.
So there’s a gap of understanding for policymakers about when a technology can be deployed in the market. That was, for me, a surprise to see based on the experiences from four technology developers’. You see that it takes them eight to 15 years to build the technology from the concept in the lab out to the market.”