European Biodiesel Production Up 16.6% in 2009

EU biodiesel production increased 16.6% in 2009 to 9 million tonnes, compared to the prior year, according to figures from the European Biodiesel Board (EBB). This increase is well below the increases in production in three of the four prior years (35% in 2008, 54% in 2006 and 65% in 2005); in 2007, the industry growth rate was also 16%.

In 2009, biodiesel production decreased in a number of EU Member States, including Germany, Greece and the UK, but expanded in other countries such as Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain, which last year took the place of Italy as the third largest EU biodiesel producer, behind Germany and France.

Despite this lower production increase, the EU remains the leading biodiesel producing region worldwide, representing about 65% of worldwide output. In 2009, biodiesel represented about 75% of biofuels produced in Europe (bio-ethanol fuel production last year being approximately 3 million tonnes).

European biodiesel production capacity is currently some 22 million tonnes. The number of existing biodiesel facilities as of July 2010 stands at 245 with a slight decrease compared to 2008 due to the reorganization of the sector, EBB said.

EBB attributed the lower growth rate in EU biodiesel production and the reduced capacity utilization rate to unfair trade practices on the worldwide biodiesel market—specifically, on the part of US biodiesel producers.

US producers had been selling B99 biodiesel into the EU at a considerable discount since early 2007. The EC imposed anti-dumping and countervailing measures in March 2009. However, EBB claims,

...circumvention practices started emerging soon after the imposition of the EU measures, in particular the trans-shipment of US biodiesel via non-EU destinations (mainly Canada) and the production of artificial blends (typically B19) not covered by the EU duties. This trend is perfectly illustrated by the case of Romania, where biodiesel imports allegedly originating from Canada reached 50 000 tonnes between March 2008 and March 2009 compared to zero imports the previous year, causing the domestic biodiesel production to stagnate at very low levels.

In the first quarter of 2010, the worrying circumvention trend was found to be confirmed. In March, an important biodiesel load declared as of Canadian origin was seized by the Venice customs authorities. The product was offered at a lower price than soybean and canola oils, signalling its likely US origin. EBB remains strongly determined to address any circumvention or fraudulent practice that would undermine the remedial effect of the EU anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

Biodiesel exports from Argentina are also becoming problematic for the EU producers, EBB said. Argentine exports to the EU reached 850,000 tonnes in 2009 and already 260,000 tonnes in the first quarter of 2010. Argentine Differential Export Taxes (DET) maintain a large differential between an export tax on crude soybean oil of 32% and an export tax on biodiesel of 20% (the effectively applied rate is 14.16%), thereby incentivizing the export of the finished product biodiesel, EBB says.

EBB urged swift implementation of new EU directives for biofuels, along with:

  • Full harmonization of the biofuels market.
  • Pragmatic implementation of biofuels sustainability rule.
  • Appropriate and transparent measurement of GHG emissions from all transport fuels defined at EU level, in line with the principle that competing fuel sources need to be assessed on a fair basis.

EBB has been consistently advocating that the same methodology should be applied to measure the direct GHG emissions of fossil fuels and biofuels, and the same holds true for indirect effects (externalities). In this perspective, it is essential that indirect land use change from biofuels (ILUC) is not accounted in the absolute. Instead, it should be compared to IDOUC (Indirect and Direct Oil Use Consequences) i.e. among others the massive externalities and indirect environmental impacts related to fossil fuels extraction, transport and refining.

The BP platform accident in Louisiana is only the emerging part of an iceberg of around 4 million tons of crude oil which according to many sources are leaked every year in seas and oceans, of which 600.000 tonnes per year oil spills in the Mediterranean sea! It is only when applying the same methodology that the true impact of biofuels and fossil fuels will be properly assessed and compared. This seems all the more logical as biofuels are aimed to lower the environmental impact of fossil fuels and are also marketed in the form of blends with fossil fuels, via the exact same distribution network.

EBB also urged rapid EU standardization of higher biodiesel blends.

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