Thurmond: Future is sustainable feedstocks, exports

By Ryan C. Christiansen | August 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted August 27, 2008 at 11:02 a.m. CST

Over the next decade, global demand for biodiesel will shift to Asia while global supply will shift to the southern hemisphere, according to Will Thurmond, president of Emerging Markets Online and author of "Biodiesel 2020: A Global Market Survey." He said because Europe, and increasingly Asia, have the largest number of consumers using diesel-powered vehicles, nations in those parts of the world will drive biodiesel's future. Thurmond is scheduled to speak Sept. 16 at the Bioenergy World conference in Salvador, Brazil.

Europe will import more biodiesel and demand that biodiesel come from sustainable feedstocks, Thurmond said, while Asia, particularly China, will simply be hungry for more fuel. Nations with poor rural farm economies like Brazil, India, and several countries in Africa and Indochina are very interested in growing sustainable feedstocks that will supply the increased demand, he said. In particular, Thurmond added, those countries are looking at jatropha, a shrub with oil-rich seeds that grows in tropical and subtropical climates on marginal land. China has set aside approximately 13 million hectares (32 million acres) for growing jatropha, he said.

Because traditional biodiesel feedstocks such as rapeseed oil, soybean oil, and palm oil have become more expensive, biodiesel facilities around the world are producing only a third of their capacity, Thurmond said. Producers are turning to alternative feedstocks, such as waste vegetable oil and animal fats that have traditionally been less costly. Thurmond said the short-term outlook for the global biodiesel industry includes continued growth of using multiple feedstocks, exporting to Europe, and larger biodiesel plants opening near ports and established refineries providing quick access to imported feedstocks and infrastructure already in place for the oil industry.

Thurmond said commercial-scale production of biodiesel using jatropha will begin between 2010 and 2015. Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as well as Ukraine and Russia, will increase biodiesel exports, he added. As well, algae will emerge as a commercial-scale biodiesel feedstock during this time and between 2015 and 2020 algae will become a mainstream feedstock for producing biodiesel.
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