Researchers rank developing nations for biodiesel production potential

By Jessica Ebert | November 20, 2007
A new study ranks the nations that are best positioned to become leading biodiesel producers. Many of the countries already well-established in the industry, such as the United States and Brazil, are among the top 10. Interestingly, Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia, Uruguay and Ghana emerged as the leading developing nations most likely to attract biodiesel investment. These countries currently export large amounts of vegetable oil for profit, and are relatively stable, safe and debt-free.

"This study, while by no means exhaustive, serves to highlight the untapped opportunities present in many developing countries," wrote the study authors Matt Johnston and Tracey Holloway of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The study, titled "A Global Comparison of National Biodiesel Production Potentials," was published in a recent issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

The raw data for the study was drawn from publicly available, online sources. The researchers limited the analysis to large-volume commodity oil and fat feedstocks, and calculated the total biodiesel production potential for each feedstock and country. In addition, they estimated the production cost for the fuel. By comparing those values to a baseline price for imported biodiesel, a country's new potential profit from biodiesel processing was determined. From that, the countries with the best combination of high-volume potential and low production cost were identified and ranked.

"We're not saying, 'There's all this potential out there. Go get it,'" Johnston said. "Instead, we're looking at which vegetable oil feedstocks are most likely to be affected and which countries will most likely be doing this at a large scale. That way, we can anticipate some of the impacts, as opposed to having to react after the fact."

Johnston and Holloway expect the study to be useful for national governments and international organizations involved in energy planning and decision-making.

Top 10 Biodiesel Production Potential Countries
1. Malaysia
2. Indonesia
3. Argentina
4. United States
5. Brazil
6. Netherlands
7. Germany
8. Philippines
9. Belgium
10. Spain
Source: "A Global Comparison of National Biodiesel Production Potential," University of Wisconsin in Madison
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