A Government-commissioned report on biofuels has set out a strong case for promoting the use of wastes such as cooking oil, municipal solid waste, the dregs from whisky manufacture or ’fatbergs’ from sewers.
A review of the sustainability pros and cons of biofuels has been carried out by the Royal Academy of Engineering for the Departments of Transport and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The report, Sustainability of Liquid Biofuels, says biofuels have a role to play, especially in ’second generation’ biofuels made from wastes and by-products of other sectors.
“Such fuels can be sustainable and could make a real impact in reducing carbon emissions, although action is needed to manage the risks involved, improve traceability and avoid fraudulent practice,” the authors conclude.
The report acknowledges concerns over ’first generation’ biofuels, meaning those manufactured from crops, but recommends energy crops are grown on marginal land that is unsuitable for food production, housing or degraded through deforestation.
But it also calls on the Government to incentivise the development of second generation biofuels in the UK, mainly those derived from wastes and agricultural, forest and sawmill residues.
Second generation biofuels offer real prospects for the UK to make progress in reducing emissions from transport
Professor Adisa Azapagic, Royal Academy of Engineering
Such innovation is being undertaken in the UK by Argent Energy, (pictured), which won two awards at MRW’s 2017 National Recycling Awards for converting fats, oil and grease into fuel for London buses.
The report warns that the sector has to be properly regulated, “with clear and consistent categorisation of wastes and residues to help avoid unintended market distortions within the UK and internationally”.
“The academy wishes to see more comprehensive requirements imposed on issues such as traceability to guard against fraud. Requirements should also cover social and economic impacts such as labour conditions.”
The academy also recommends increasing the level of biofuels required under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to help meet climate change mitigation targets.
Professor Adisa Azapagic, chair of the academy’s working group on biofuels, said: “Second generation biofuels offer real prospects for the UK to make progress in reducing emissions from transport, particularly in sectors like aviation, where liquid fuels are really the only option for the foreseeable future.
“Our report shows that, with the right safeguards and monitoring, biofuels from waste in particular are well worth pursuing from a sustainability point of view and also provide business opportunities for development.”