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EU mulls exemption for aviation biofuel feedstocks

  • : Biofuels
  • 24/03/11

The European commission is pushing to extend the 'advanced' technology definition for biofuel feedstocks from intermediate and cover crops — used to cover the soil between crops. But European waste-based and advanced biofuels association (Ewaba) deplores the proposed change only applying to the aviation sector.

Under a new text circulating among member state experts, feedstock from intermediate and cover crops used in other sectors — such as maritime or road — would fall under the existing 1.7pc cap for transport fuels and electricity from feedstocks defined as a 'mature' under part B of the EU's renewable directive's annex IX.

The text refers to "crops grown on severely degraded land, except food and feed crops" and defines such feedstocks as advanced "where used for the production of biofuel for the aviation sector" and as mature "where not used for the production of biofuel for the aviation sector".

The same differentiation is made for intermediate crops, such as catch crops and cover crops grown in single harvest areas, if their use does not trigger additional land demand and provided the "soil organic matter content is maintained". Cyanobacteria — an algae used to produce some biofuels — would also be advanced.

Ewaba welcomed the expansion as it said that it will alleviate pressure on certain feedstocks, but added that it is concerned at an "unexpected and unjustified" changed that singles out aviation.

"The stronger policy support granted to cover crops for aviation interferes with the level-playing field across sectors and challenges the principle of technology neutrality, a crucial pillar for investment certainty," said Ewaba secretary general Angel Alvarez Alberdi.

Alvarez fears extra incentives for aviation use of the same intermediate and cover crops will direct them towards the aviation industry to the detriment of use in other hard-to-decarbonise sectors, including for heavy-duty vehicles and ships.

But Alvarez told Argus that the commission may delete the reference to aviation due to significant opposition from EU states so as to a avoid a veto after formally proposing the draft directive.

Officials are aiming to formally propose the directive as a first feedstock review before the end of March. Under the 2018 renewables directive, but, the commission should have reviewed feedstocks every two years from June 2019.

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