NGOs object to French tax benefit for palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) biofuels

Several NGOs are objecting to France’s return of palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) to a list of biofuels benefitting from a tax exemption, Euractiv reported on 24 January.

Since 1 January, biofuels produced from palm oil have not been eligible for public funding, following a decision by the French Parliament last November, which was adopted by the National Assembly as part of the country’s 2020 finance bill.

However, France’s Directorate General of Customs published a technical note on 19 December indicating that biofuels produced from PFAD would still be able to benefit from the tax exemption, known as TIRIB, Euractiv said.

The issue was discussed at a meeting on 21 January concerning the supply of feedstocks for French oil giant Total’s biorefinery in La Mède (pictured), which was commissioned last July.

The biorefinery can produce 500,000 tonnes/year of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) but has attracted controversy over its use of imported palm oil as a feedstock.

Total has pledged to process no more than 300,000 tonnes/year of palm oil or less than 50% of the total volume of raw materials needed at the plant, and at least 50,000 tonnes of French-grown rapeseed.

It said it planned to import 100,000 tonnes/year of PFAD for La Mede, which it said was waste from the production of palm oil that could not be used in food because it was too acidic, Teller Report said on 21 January.

According to Finnish renewable diesel producer Neste, PFAD is a processing residue from the refining of food grade palm oil in which degraded free fatty acids are removed by distilling. Palm oil refining yields around 3.5-5% PFAD and annual volumes total around 2.5-3M tonnes.

Greenpeace France programme director Jérôme Frignet said French parliamentarians had been clear.

“They voted to end the niche tax benefiting biofuels made from palm oil, which obviously includes PFADs.”

The NGOs, who met with Ecological Transition Minister Elisabeth Borne and Total representatives on 21 January, had filed an application with France’s Council of State contesting the Directorate General of Customs’ decision, Euractiv wrote.