IEA Bioenergy - Task 39: Drop in biofuels - executive summary

Executive Summary

In this report, “drop-in” biofuels are defined as “liquid bio-hydrocarbons that are functionally equivalent to petroleum fuels and fully compatible with existing infrastructure”. The predominant drop-in fuels produced today are made by converting ”conventional” oleochemical feedstocks such as vegetable oils, used cooking oils, tallow, and other lipids to fully saturated products. As about 5 billion litres of hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO’s)/ hydrotreated esters and fatty acids (HEFA’s) are produced worldwide each year this technology is considered “conventional” because it is fully commercialised. However, sourcing large quantities of “sustainable” oleochemical (lipid) feedstocks at a low enough cost to result in profitable drop-in biofuel production remains challenging and is a major constraint limiting the expansion of this production platform. Consequently, it is likely that “advanced” thermochemical technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis or hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) based on more widely available biomass feedstocks will provide much of the long-term supply of drop-in biofuels in the future. However, progress in technology development and commercialisation of these advanced technologies has been slow owing to a combination of low fossil fuel prices and on-going uncertainty about long term energy policies.

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