Retrospective on BioMob#3 - Mobilising Biomass | January 11, 2024

This is a short retrospective on the BioMob#3, the third strategy event for mobilising biomass feedstock, organised by the Platform Renewable Fuels on Thursday January 11th, 2024 in Amsterdam.

For a detailed summary of all presentations see the document on the righthand side.

The strategy event focused on the mobilisation of a sustainable bio-feedstock base for the further development of a green production sector for renewable fuels and green chemical building blocks. This specific session focussed on making green feedstocks available to replace the use of fossil carbon. Likewise, a similar analysis will be needed to understand where and how to mobilise the green electricity for the growing demand in the transport sector.

The strategy event has shown the need for policy to guide the bio-feedstock mobilisation, whether the new green feedstocks base will be ramped up in Europe or overseas, it will require incentives for the agricultural sector and joint investments in decentralised facilities, intermediate products and infrastructure and if preferably commoditisation to secure a stable supply chain for green production facilities. The synergies and interlinkages between feedstock demand for renewable fuels and the green chemical sector are evident and therefore the factor time needs to be well considered in a bio-feedstock policy strategy. Over time, when electrically driven trains will have become dominant in transport, the bio-feedstocks will become available for demand for circular carbon for chemical products and materials.

In the seminar various avenues for developing a new bio-feedstock base have been considered. One group of opportunities would create pathways for finding new feedstocks for the current production cluster and for the announced investments in new facilities such as for HVO and HEFA. These include intermediate crops, flexible crops, crops on marginal lands. Other avenues show the way to a wide availability of feedstocks in particular agri-residues that would typically require a new technology base, such as liquefaction or syngas to make these available for use.

The discussions in the seminar have shown how these various pathways can be integrated in current food production. For instance, this could be done by making use of existing agricultural land, possibly creating an extra source of income for producers and, contributing to preserving a healthy soil without causing indirect land-use changes. But these cases do require extra incentives for the primary producer otherwise it will be difficult to find a business case. Also long-term policy stability is required because it will take considerable time to develop these pathways.

Since the revised European Renewable Energy Directive (RED 3) is setting higher mandates for renewable energy carriers in transport in the European member states for 2030, and because the demand for volumes of renewable fuels in road transport is much larger than in aviation or maritime (see introduction slides), new feedstock options on the short term will be required for the ramp up of renewable fuels for the European road transport sector.

However, in the latest, not yet published proposals, the European Commission makes a distinction between the agri-residues that will be stimulated with a submandate and the pathways that can provide new feedstocks for existing facilities but will be included in an Annex (list IX B) with the purpose to limit the use.  

Although the regulations for renewable fuels in aviation (Refuel EU) and the maritime sector (Fuel EU Maritime) do not limit the use of this specific category of feedstocks, the proposed cap (in Annex IX B) on these pathways for the road sector can hinder investments on the short term. Considering the extra investments and the time it takes to develop these supply-chains, we recommend the European Commission to reconsider adding the new avenues to a list that restricts their use and perspectives.

For the governance of sustainable biomass,it was discussed that the context matters much more than considering a certain feedstock as sustainable or not. What matters is to avoid risks for the food and feed production (and for the carbon stock and biodiversity). Modelled risks for indirect land use changes are getting less relevant in times of access to real time data. Also developing biofeedstock supply-chains can be well used in addressing Sustainable Development Goals such as reduction of malnutrition, poverty, and energy poverty. This will require bio-feedstock policy strategy to move away from solely mitigating potential risks to actively stimulating the additional benefits of bio-feedstock production in addressing water pollution, soil erosion and fair share, meaning shared value among stakeholders in bio-feedstock production.


General introduction (Loes Knotter - Platform Renewable Fuels)

Find the full presentation here

The new green production system (Ayla Uslu - TNO)

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Avenues in findings your new feedstock base (Olivier Dubois - agronomist & former UN FAO expert)

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Addressing old problems with new (bio)fuels
Biomass Research's perspective by Hans Langeveld

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Adding the social impact of biomass allocation
Solidaridad's perspective by Jeroen Kroezen

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Clean Shipping Project: Designing inclusive and sustainable biohubs  
TU Delft's perspective by Susan van der Veen  & Sivaramakrishnan Chandrasekaran

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Panel discussion: Biomass allocation, synergies and investing in a changing landscape.
Perspectives from the industry

Main takeaways

During the event we articulated what it takes to achieve a sustainable reliable feedstock system and identified barriers that are holding us back in development.  

  • Biomass is undoubtably needed in the transition to a fossil fuel free world.
  • There are a lot of possibilities for biomass feedstock and there is a need for rigorous and context specific assessments for sustainable biomass production and mobilisation.
  •   Many interesting feedstock avenues were explored (i.e. the use of ag-residues, marginal land, inter-cropping) but some of their use is currently limited by caps.  
  •   Current policy regulations are standing in the way of the use of certain feedstocks. We instead need policy continuity and long-term policy stability.
  •   The event served as a great conversation starter, but a lot still needs to be done. This is the start of a long-term vision.
  •   Platform Renewable Fuels aims to bring the takeaways of this event to the European Commission in the form of a technical note.