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Ai interview with Lew Fulton, Head of Division, International Energy Agency

The 7th annual World Biofuels Markets conference and exhibition will be held from the 13th to the 15th of March, 2012 at the Beurs-World Trade Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands. The event is Europe’s largest conference and exhibition focused on biofuels. As technologies quickly advance and advanced biofuels move towards commercialization, questions surrounding the role of biofuels in the transition to a global ‘bio-economy’ – how such a transition will be funded, and its impacts on global food supplies will be answered by the lineup of 2012 keynote speakers. Two major topics at this year’s conference will include the rapid growth in the use of aviation biofuels and the role of finance and investments in the industry’s ongoing commercial scale-up. 

“As the biofuels industry grows in global importance, there are serious issues it must address and we’ve brought together a diverse set of speakers to help start answering these,” said Claire Poole, Event Director for World Biofuels Markets. “Based on years of first-hand experience in biofuels, this collection of keynote speakers will help our attendees understand the future of biofuels.” 

The event is expected to draw more than 1,500 attendees from 80 countries and will include 275 expert speakers. Co-located with World Biofuels Markets will be the Bio-Based Chemicals and Biopower Generation conferences featuring the leading companies and technologies within these emerging sectors. World Biofuels Markets will also feature the presentation of the 4th annual Sustainable Biofuels Awards, designed to recognize the tremendous innovation that is taking place in the development of truly sustainable and renewable fuels. Award nominations span across ten different categories covering transportation fuels, aviation, biopower generation and bio-based chemicals. 

The World Biofuels Markets 2012 will feature conference agendas on aviation, 
sustainability, certification and iLUC, advanced biofuels, energy crops, finance and investment, global biodiesel production and trading, global bioethanol production and trading, emerging markets, biofuels from waste, biorefinery platforms and biogas in transportation. Last year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels launched its global certification system for business during World Biofuels Market 2011. The RSB certification system provides the assurances that guarantees the sustainability and traceability of feedstocks and fuels which is necessary to meet the compliance and certification requirements of the European Union. 

One issue that will be discussed in detail at this year’s World Biofuels Markets conference is how biofuels will contribute to the increased sustainability of the global automotive future, focusing especially on heavy duty vehicles. Discussions will also be held on the recent advances in biofuel technology, strategy and making this a commercial reality. Other issues that will be covered in this session, being held on the second day of World Biofuels Markets 2012, will include options towards sustainability for cars, heavy duty vehicles and public transport for increased efficiency and reduced emissions. The challenges and opportunities in decarbonizing heavy duty vehicles and understanding the relevant technical aspects of necessary renewable fuel compositions, emissions and so on.
Speakers at this session Speakers include Anders Röj, Manager, Fuels and Lubricants, Volvo Technology Corporation 
Dorothee Lahaussois, Senior Specialist, Toyota Motor Europe, Lew Fulton, Head of Division, International Energy Agency and 
Candace Wheeler, Technical Fellow, General Motors. 

According to John Plaza, chief executive officer and founder of Imperium Renewables the biggest challenge the biofuels market faces is technology. “Technology that can convert low cost feedstocks into drop in fuels in a sustainable and economically viable manner does not yet exist at scale. With more R&D these new technologies can lead to commercial volumes with cost competitive pricing. However funding for these areas is low and yet to be funded like other forms of biofuels. If significant funding is provided to develop and scale the advanced drop in biofuel strategies for jet fuel, large volumes will be commercially available. Without this funding it will be extremely challenging,” he says. 

Lew Fulton of the International Energy Agency, points out that their 2011 Biofuels Technology Roadmap addresses technology targets, feedstock requirements, conversion requirements, sustainability, vehicle deployment infrastructure and investment requirements. The IEA report calls for a targeted used of advanced biofuels reaching 10 per cent of transport fuel by 2030, rising to 25 per cent by 2050 as part of a broad package of measures to contain climate change to no more than 2 degrees of warming. While currently the cost of production of advanced biofuels (such as ligno-cellulosic ethanol and biomass-to-liquids fuels) is high, the IEA sees second-generation biofuels costs dropping closer to or lower than gasoline prices in the 2025-2030 time frame, around the time that volumes could be quite substantial.

Automotive Industries spoke to Lew Fulton, Head of Division, International Energy Agency. 

AI: How do you see biofuels contributing to the increased sustainability of our automotive future especially heavy duty vehicles? 

LF: Well, vehicles have limited options to cut CO2 emissions, particularly heavy, long range vehicles such as trucks, ships and aircraft. Apart from substantially improving their efficiency, biofuels are the only clear low-carbon strategy for these types of vehicles. But we have to make sure that biofuels really are low-GHG, on a life-cycle basis. Much more work is needed to be able to achieve this, and produce such fuels at high volume with acceptable costs. 

AI: Tell us a little about the options we have towards sustainable mobility for cars, heavy duty vehicles and public transport as far as increased efficiency and reduced emissions are concerned. 

LF: The IEA estimates that we could double the efficiency of cars by 2030 (compared to 2005), with only slightly less improvement for trucks and public transport. This is really important to achieve, because it is relatively low cost and will cut fuel requirements proportionately, taking pressure off fuel supplies. Cars can then be shifted to electricity over time, perhaps along with hydrogen for fuel cells. But trucks and public transport may have to rely more on liquid fuels for the foreseeable future, and so we see an important role for biofuels in containing to decarbonize these vehicles over time. 

AI: Tell us a little about the relevant technical aspects of necessary renewable fuel compositions and emissions. 

LF: Biofuels have to achieve very low well-to-wheel emissions, even taking into account land-use-change and other secondary factors. It will take more years of research to achieve this, and ensure we are producing truly low-GHG fuels using the advanced pathways, but the IEA is confident that we can. The big issues are conversion efficiencies, feedstock availability and costs, and transport of feedstocks and fuels. Scale up is another major concern, since very large plants are efficient but require large amounts of feedstock to succeed. The fuels themselves of course should be compatible with existing fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuels) but this does not really appear to be a problem. Designer biofuels are on the way – the only issue will be cost. We think that over time we can bring these costs down, but we need to get to large volume production to have a chance to do this. Thus we think strong government support programs will be needed around the world over the next 5-10 years.

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