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A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast that global biofuel consumption could more than double by 2030 and continue to increase until 2050, Ethanol Producer magazine wrote.

According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2022, published on 27 October, more than 80 countries currently have biofuel blending mandates in place.

However, impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic had caused many biofuel targets to be delayed or scaled back, the report said. The IEA also noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had impacted the global biofuel sector due to the resulting increased energy and feedstock costs, the 1 November Ethanol Producer magazine report said.

The IEA’s report considered the potential for future growth in biofuels production using via three specific scenarios. The Stated Polices Scenario (STEPs) showed the trajectory implied by current policy settings, while the Announced Pledges Scenario (APS) assumed that all aspirational targets announced by governments were met on time and in full, including their long-term net zero and energy access goals. Thirdly, the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE) Scenario mapped out a way to achieve a 1.5°C stabilisation in the rise in global average temperatures, alongside universal access to modern energy by 2030.

Under the STEPs scenario, the IEA forecast demand for liquid biofuels to grow from 2.2M barrels of oil equivalent/day (mboe/d) in 2021 to 3.4 mboe/d in 2030 and 5.3 mboe/d in 2050. The agency primarily attributed the expected increase to blending mandates for passenger cars that had led to increased use of ethanol produced from advanced feedstocks. Under the scenario, passenger cars consumed 50% of total liquid biofuels in 2030 and almost 40% in 2050. Ethanol comprised 55% of total biofuels production in 2030, down from the current 60% level.

Under the APS scenario, demand for liquid biofuels would increase to 5.5 mboe/d in 2030 with much higher use of liquid biofuels in road transport in Canada, China, India and the USA. After 2030, rising sales of electric cars would cause liquid biofuels demand to level out in road transport. However, a much higher share of biofuels, would be used in the aviation and shipping industries. By 2050, total liquid biofuels consumption would exceed 9 mboe/d, with 75% of that volume consisting of advanced biofuels. Approximately 40% of biofuels consumption in 2050 would be consumed in aviation and shipping, with liquid biofuels accounting for more than 25% of total fuel use in aviation, the report said.

Under the NZE scenario, demand for liquid biofuels would increase to 5.7 mboe/d in 2030 and remain around that level until 2050. Increasing use of electric cars and trucks would lead to a significant reduction in biofuels consumption in road transport after 2030, the report said, with more of the limited supply of sustainable bioenergy used in the form of solid bioenergy in power generation and industrial applications. As a result, demand or liquid biofuels in 2050 would be 40% lower than under the APS scenario.

The IEA also noted that under the NZE scenario, approximately 90% of liquid biofuels produced in 2050 would be advanced biofuels, with 75% of liquid biofuels consumed in aviation and shipping. The agency estimated that more than 40% of the fuel used in aviation in 2050 would comprise liquid biofuels.

Currently, IEA estimated that more than 90% of liquid biofuels were conventional biofuels produced from food crop feedstock, such as sugarcane, starch and vegetable oils. The production of advanced, non-food based liquid biofuels would increase under all three scenarios but was critically dependent on developing sufficient quantities of advanced feedstocks; demonstrating and scaling up ways to source sustainable feedstocks from non-food energy crop production on non-arable and degraded land; and regulatory stability, according to the report.