EU biofuel import controls need tightening: APPB

  • Market: Biofuels
  • 22/09/22

A better traceability of imported feedstocks used to produced advanced biofuels, particularly those derived from the palm oil sector, is essential for both the reputation of the market and the EU but the block's recent drive for better certification falls short, according to Portugal's association of biofuels producers APPB.

The problem concerns not only the environment, but also the competitivity of biorefiners that use little or no derivatives or waste from the palm oil sector — such as those in Portugal — which have been competing with an increase in pre-blended, imported biofuels since early 2021.

Recent votes in the European Parliament such as the amendments to the RED II directive, or proposals to halt the sale of products from deforested or degraded land, are steps towards a better tracing of palm oil and its derivatives and preventing fraud arising from mixing palm oil with used cooking oil (UCO). But they only meet a fraction of the need for tighter monitoring of waste-based feedstocks, according to the association.

New controls on auditing and governance of sustainable biofuel supply chains via a central track-and-trace database, hosted by the European Commission, will include advanced biofuel feedstocks, but are only set to start becoming operational from 1 January 2023.

Unforeseen consequences

Wastes such as palm oil mill effluent (Pome) and empty palm fruit bunches were granted exemption from Portugal's ISP special energy tax in January 2021, along with other biofuel feedstocks qualified as advanced by the EU's RED II directive.

This tax exemption, together with Portugal's adoption of double-counting methodology for waste-based or advanced biofuels since 2012, drove a surge in biofuel imports to 39pc of total national consumption in 2021 and 45pc in the first quarter of 2022. This compares with under 10pc in previous years.

Most of these imports arrive in Portugal already blended with road fuels, making it even more difficult, without tighter enforcement using methods such as isotope testing and geolocation, to trace the origins of their bio-component. In some 63pc of blended advanced biofuel imports to Portugal the bio-component is certified as waste from the palm oil industry.

Of the about 72,000m³ of advanced biofuels imported into Portugal in 2021, 45,000m³ was certified as originating from Pome or empty palm fruit bunches, according to the country's national laboratory for energy and geology (LNEG).

The surge in palm industry waste-based biofuel imports, which are largely arriving in diesel pre-blended with hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), continued in January-March 2022 and accounted for some 25,000m³ of biofuels imported into Portugal.

"This upsurge in imports is not driven by their competitiveness, but by the indiscriminate concession of fiscal advantages. It's an upshot of the current legislation that we hope was not among the original objectives of the lawmakers," said Jaime Braga, a former biorefinery manager and current general secretary of APPB.

The SBEO conundrum

LNEG's figures for palm industry waste feedstock are separate from volumes of spent bleaching earth oil (SBEO), a waste product from the refining process of palm and other vegetable oils that if extracted in line with best industry practices should occur in yields to refined oils at a proportion of 1:1000.

LNEG reports that imports of biofuels made with SBEO into Portugal, a country representing a fraction of total European advanced biofuel waste feedstock demand, totalled 29,400m³ in 2021 and 18,000m³ in January-March 2022, reflecting the refining of 42.9mn m³, or over 40mn t of vegetable oils, according to Braga. This is well over the total annual consumption of vegetable oil in Europe.

Raising further doubts about the certification of bio-feedstock as SBOE in Portugal, he said that India — one of the primary producers of the feedstock — produces just 25mn t of it per year.

Portugal's environment and climate action ministry declined to comment on the possible certification issues and current legislation on palm-oil waste based imports and SBEO.

"It seems clear that thanks to the incentives in place, Portugal is becoming a privileged destination of undesirable tropical cultures from India and South-east Asia, which in 2021 benefited from €38mn ($37.3mn) of tax exemptions," the APPB general secretary said.

"Lawmakers still have time to correct these undesirable effects of the legislation by perfecting and adjusting it to the spirit of the law, but there is danger in delay," he said.


Sharelinkedin-sharetwitter-sharefacebook-shareemail-share

Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

News

Canada furthers investment in GHG reductions


18/04/24
News
18/04/24

Canada furthers investment in GHG reductions

Houston, 18 April (Argus) — The Canadian government plans to have C$93bn ($67.5bn) in federal incentives up and running by the end of the year to spur developments in clean energy technology, hydrogen production, carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) along with a new tax credit for electric vehicle (EV) supply chains. The Canada Department of Finance, in its 2024 budget released on 16 April, said it expects to have the first planned investment tax credits (ITCs), for CCUS and renewable energy investments, in law before 1 June. The ITCs would be available for investments made generally within or before 2023 depending on the credit. The anticipated clean hydrogen ITC is also moving forward. It could provide 15-40pc of related eligible costs, with projects that produce the cleanest hydrogen set to receive the higher levels of support, along with other credits for equipment purchases and power-purchase agreements. The government is pursuing a new ITC for EV supply chains, meant to bolster in-country manufacturing and consumer adoption of EVs with a 10pc return on the cost of buildings used in vehicle assembly, battery production and related materials. The credit would build on the clean technology manufacturing ITC, which allows businesses to claim 30pc of the cost of new machinery and equipment. To bolster reductions in transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the government will also direct up to C$500mn ($363mn) in funding from the country's low-carbon fuel standard to support domestic biofuel production . Transportation is the second largest source of GHG emissions for the country, at 28pc, or 188mn metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, in 2021. But the province of Alberta expressed disappointment at the pace of development of ITC support that could help companies affected by the country's move away from fossil fuels. "There was nothing around ammonia or hydrogen, and no updates on the CCUS ITCs that would actually spur on investment," Alberta finance minister Nate Horner said. The incentives are intended to help Canada achieve a 40-45pc reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. This would require a reduction in GHG emissions to about 439mn t/yr, while Canada's emissions totaled 670mn in 2021, according to the government's most recent inventory. The budget also details additional plans for the Canada Growth Fund's carbon contracts for a difference, which help decarbonize hard-to-abate industries. The government plans to add off-the-shelf contracts to its current offering of bespoke one-off contracts tailored to a specific enterprise to broaden the reach and GHG reductions of the program. These contracts incentivize businesses to invest in emissions reducing program or technology, such as CCUS, through the government providing a financial backstop to a project developer. The government and developer establish a "strike price" that carbon allowances would need to reach for a return on the investment, with the government paying the difference if the market price fails to increase. CGF signed its first contract under this program last year , with Calgary-based carbon capture and sequestration company Entropy and has around $6bn remaining to issue agreements. To stretch this funding further, the Canadian government intends for Environment and Climate Change Canada to work with provincial and territorial carbon markets to improve performance and potentially send stronger price signals to spur decarbonization. By Denise Cathey Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Korea’s Hyundai starts operations at biodiesel plant


18/04/24
News
18/04/24

Korea’s Hyundai starts operations at biodiesel plant

Singapore, 18 April (Argus) — South Korean refiner Hyundai Oilbank has started commercial operations at its 130,000 t/yr biodiesel plant at Daesan as of 17 April, according to a source from the company. The plant is currently being fed with palm oil fatty acid distillates (Pfad). Most of the produced biodiesel will likely be kept to meet domestic demand, said other South Korea-based market sources. Hyundai had been trialing feedstocks at the plant since last December, which include Pfad, used cooking oil (UCO) and soybean oil. It previously entered an agreement with food manufacturer Lotte Confectionery in 2022, which involved Lotte supplying UCO as feedstock to the plant. The refiner said earlier this year that it is also considering co-processing biofuels at its 520,000 b/d Daesan refinery. It has plans for another 500,000 t/yr plant that can produce renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel and bio-naphtha, initially scheduled to come on line in the middle of the decade. But a final investment decision has yet to be reached for this plant. By Sarah Giam Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Idemitsu books rare US Gulf-Vancouver HVO cargo


17/04/24
News
17/04/24

Idemitsu books rare US Gulf-Vancouver HVO cargo

New York, 17 April (Argus) — Japanese oil company Idemitsu provisionally hired a medium range (MR) tanker to carry hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) from the US Gulf coast to Vancouver on 16 April, a sign of the growing HVO trade from the region into west coast North America. Idemitsu put the Stolt Sisto MR on subjects for a US Gulf coast-Vancouver voyage from 20-25 April at $2.35mn lumpsum. The fixture may be part of an agreement under which Vertex Energy supplies Idemitsu's California-based subsidiary, Idemitsu Apollo, with all of its renewable diesel production from its plant in Mobile, Alabama. The plant's exports are targeting "growing regional markets in the western United States and Canada", according to Vertex. High freight costs for US domestic shipments because of the Jones Act may be encouraging Idemitsu to focus on the Canadian market. In comparison, freight for a US-flagged MR on a New Orleans-Los Angeles voyage was equivalent to $4.34mn, nearly double the cost of a voyage to more distant Vancouver. "I think [demand from Vancouver] will keep expanding with the subsidies/grants," a shipbroker said. "There is not much production in Vancouver, just Parkland [refinery]." Canadian oil company Suncor typically books one MR vessel a month to carry HVO from the US Gulf coast to Vancouver, with two charters in October 2023 standing out as a particularly active month for the trade, according to ship fixtures compiled by Argus . But Idemitsu has been "jumping in on the action" in recent months, according to the shipbroker, provisionally hiring at least one MR tanker on the spot market in January and February before yesterday's deal. Vancouver buyers are also getting HVO from Asia-Pacific suppliers, and countries like South Korea could become increasingly competitive in the renewable trade overall as they ramp up their sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and HVO production in the coming years. Vancouver imported around 29,500 b/d of HVO in January 2024, including 16,612 b/d from the US, 7,548 b/d from South Korea, and 5,351 b/d from Taiwan, according to Kpler data. By Ross Griffith Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Singapore's MPA, IEA unite on maritime decarbonisation


17/04/24
News
17/04/24

Singapore's MPA, IEA unite on maritime decarbonisation

Singapore, 17 April (Argus) — The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the IEA have signed an initial deal to push the transition to zero and near zero emission fuels, while working on technology as well as digitalisation to meet the maritime decarbonisation agenda. The agreement, signed by MPA chief executive Teo Eng Dih and IEA executive director Faith Birol, was announced at the Singapore Maritime Week 2024 (SMW) this week. "Greater international collaboration in maritime and energy industries is critical for international shipping to meet international decarbonisation goals," Teo said. "Shipping is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise and we need to spur development and deployment of new technologies to slow and then reverse the rise in its emissions," said IEA chief economist Tim Gould. "This will require strong collaboration at a national and international level." Training programmes will be built to support the adoption of new fuels. There will also be partnerships made towards fuel-related projects and initiatives such as the International Maritime Organisation-Singapore NextGen project. The IEA plans to open its first regional co-operation centre in Singapore, which will be its first regional office outside of its headquarters in Paris, France. By Mahua Chakravarty Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more