Colombian government addresses biodiesel's greenhouse gas savings

By Erin Voegele | May 17, 2012

The government of Colombia is touting the greenhouse gas (GHG) savings associated with its biofuel production. A notice posted to the Colombia Ministry of Mines and Energy’s website stated that biodiesel produced from the country’s palm oil, and ethanol made from its sugarcane, can achieve GHG reduction rates of 83 and 74 percent, respectively. According to information published by the ministry, these ratings could allow Colombia to become a world leader in biofuels production while meeting high environmental and social sustainability standards. It is not clear whether GHG emissions associated with indirect land use change (ILUC) were addressed in the life-cycle assessment that was performed.

According to the notice published by the ministry, if all existing biofuel plants in Colombia were operated at full capacity, the fuel they produce could offset approximately 1.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. This equates to approximately 8 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions made by the country’s transportation sector each year.

Regarding expansion, the ministry noted that the study it commissioned demonstrated that considerable more land within the country could be dedicated to palm oil and sugarcane production. As such, it noted that the results of the research provide a knowledge base for strategic planning for the biofuels sector, and can serve to attract investment.

Information released by the ministry further said that Colombia should be attractive to international investors not only due to its natural resources, but also the stability of its legal system.

Information published on May 10 by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service shows that the production of palm oil in Colombia is on the rise. While only 820,000 metric tons of palm oil was produced during the 2007-‘08 agricultural year, 885,000 metric tons of palm oil were produced in the 2011-‘12 agricultural year. Production in 2012-‘13 is expected to reach 900,000 metric tons. The vast majority of the palm oil produced in Colombia is consumed domestically.

The most recent USDA GAIN report published on the Colombia biofuels market, which dates from mid-2011, stated that biodiesel production within the nation began in 2008 and has experienced rapid growth. At the time of the report, seven palm oil biodiesel plants were producing fuel, with an eighth plant under construction that is expected to begin production this year. Producers within the country are expected to produce 545 million liters (144 million gallons) of biodiesel this year. 


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