US cellulosic biofuel blending mandate lowered for 2013

23 April 2014 19:45  [Source: ICIS news]

(story tightened and recast)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Petroleum trade groups on Wednesday praised the reduction of a 2013 mandate to blend cellulosic biofuels into gasoline and diesel in recognition of lower than projected production, a move a renewable fuels group called responsible.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the cellulosic biofuel mandate to require the use of 810,185 gal (3.1m litres), down substantially from the 6m gal required of the 2013 final rule issued in August. The other mandates of the 2013 renewable fuel standard (RFS) remain unchanged.

The 2013 RFS had been challenged by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) in October, both through a US appeals court and a direct appeal to the EPA.

The cellulosic biofuel issue had been separated from the RFS challenge and suspended pending the outcome of an internal review the EPA agreed to in January.

"EPA made the right decision [Tuesday] to lower the 2013 cellulosic biofuel requirement to what was actually produced last year. It is reassuring to know that the agency would readjust the numbers to meet reality instead of continuing to operate in the environment of unrealistic optimism that it had in the past," AFPM president Charles Drevna said.

He added that the EPA also should reconsider the 17m gal cellulosic biofuel mandate which is part of its proposed RFS for 2014.

“In the first quarter, less than 75,000 gallons of cellulosic biofuel were actually produced – less than 1% of EPA’s projections. We hope that EPA radically adjusts the 2014 mandate to reflect actual production and obviate the need for the industry to continually challenge these unrealistic mandates,” Drevna said.

Although acknowledging that the EPA is "doing the responsible thing in recognising the actual volumes for 2013", Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), said that it is important to note that the RFS is a forward-looking programme.

"The RFS is intended to drive investment in new technologies. You can’t move forward looking in the rearview mirror,” Dinneen said, noting that several commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel projects are nearing completion.

But setting unreasonable mandates makes producing fuels in the US more difficult and more costly, API downstream director Bob Greco said, calling for the US Congress to repeal the "unworkable" RFS.

"EPA should base its cellulosic mandates on actual production rather than projections that – year after year – have fallen far short of reality," he said. "For four years running, biofuel producers have promised high cellulosic ethanol production that hasn’t happened."

By: Jessie Waldheim

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