InterviewSecond generation biofuels still many years away - BDI

16 June 2009 15:24  [Source: ICIS news]

By Mark Watts

LONDON (ICIS news)--The established biodiesel industry in Europe will remain part of the energy mix for many years due to the difficulties of economically producing second generation renewable fuels, the head of BioDiesel International (BDI) warned on Tuesday.

“If politicians believe that a few huge companies producing second generation biofuels will save the world they’re wrong,” said Wilhelm Hammer, CEO of the Austrian biodiesel plant builder.

“We need to do research on second generation biofuels, but we cannot forget the first generation for many years from now,” he added.

Many companies have been researching “second generation” biofuels, which can be processed without using edible crops as a way of producing sustainable fuel without competing with food sources for land.

About 70% of plants built by BDI utilise waste cooking oil and animal fats, but the company is investing up to 7% of revenue in developing processes using different algae and other biomass as feedstock.

Hammer said algae biofuels were currently unworkable because they would be both too expensive to produce industrially and that the technology was not ready yet.

“A private investor [in biofuels-from-biomass plants] is years away, and this will depend drastically on the price of mineral oil on the market,” said Hammer.

“We can justify the viable economic production of second generation biofuels, but nobody has it…nobody can prove that they have it,” he added.

Many second generation biofuels researchers claim that algae can produce much higher yield of fuel per hectare than crops such as soybeans and rapeseed, but Hammer said this was purely theoretical without development in technology.

Biofuels were seen as only one solution to replacing crude oil in the long term along with sustainable energy sources such as wind and energy.

“The biofuels industry, by using all reasonable available feedstocks, without destroying rainforests or criminal aspects, will be able to replace a maximum of 20% of the mineral oils market,” Hammer said.

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By: Mark Watts
+44 20 8652 3214

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