Biofuels need more production reports, says RFA

According to a new report from the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA), some oil companies bringing biofuel to the UK market are not doing enough to report upon whether it is being produced in a sustainable manner.

When the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) was established, the government set targets requiring suppliers to report on how much of their feedstock met three criteria: a qualifying environmental standard, the average greenhouse gas savings of their biofuels and how much data on the source of biofuels had been reliably captured.

While the targets are voluntary, reporting against them is not — although suppliers can opt to report ‘unknown’, in which case carbon emissions default to the biofuel source with the worst Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.

As might be expected from a system based on voluntary targets, some suppliers embraced the targets while others chose simply to comply with their minimum legal obligations.

At the top of the scale, Greenergy, Lissan, Mabanaft and Topaz met all three targets. At the other end were those that performed poorly against the targets, meeting just one or even none at all. These were Conocophillips — which met just one target — and BP, Chevron, INEOS, Morgan Stanley, Murco and Total who met none at all. Prax failed to have its sustainability data verified.

The results are contained in the RFA report that assessed the impacts of biofuel supplied in the second year of the RTFO.

The report shows that industry as a whole is not keeping up with escalating targets designed to encourage more sustainable biofuels. Just 31 per cent of biofuel feedstock met the qualifying environmental standard, well below the target of 50 per cent. The majority of suppliers also missed the GHG target of 45 per cent, but the RTFO as a whole achieved 51 per cent GHG saving compared to fossil fuels.

Despite the poor performance of many, the report also identifies suppliers who are demonstrating what can be achieved. Greenergy and Shell undertook independent sustainability audits of Brazilian sugar cane, with Shell also carrying out independent audits of German oilseed rape.

Lissan and Topaz supplied all of their fuel from waste and byproducts. There are also many companies supplying only biofuels and meeting all three sustainability targets — this includes all companies supplying solely biodiesel from used cooking oil or tallow.

Mandatory carbon and sustainability requirements will be introduced in the near future through implementation of the EU Renewable Energy Directive. Those fuels that are not sourced sustainably in accordance with the directive’s requirements will not count towards targets.

The full report and supporting studies, containing a wide-ranging examination of the impacts of UK biofuel use, are available at: