Oil firms failing to deliver on biofuel potential

Major oil companies are “lagging behind and dragging overall performance down” on biofuels. The oil firms which bring biofuel to the UK market have been accused of not doing enough […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Major oil companies are “lagging behind and dragging overall performance down” on biofuels.

The oil firms which bring biofuel to the UK market have been accused of not doing enough to ensure it is delivering carbon savings and being produced in a sustainable manner.

The Renewable Fuels Agency claims that BP, Chevron, Murco, Total, INEOS and Morgan all missed all three sustainability performance targets set as part of the government’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

The RFA has just published a report which assesses the impacts of biofuel supplied in the second year of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

The report shows that industry as a whole is not keeping up with escalating targets designed to encourage more sustainable biofuels. Just 31% of biofuel feedstock met a Qualifying Environmental Standard, well below the target of 50%. The majority of suppliers also missed the GHG target of 50%, but the RTFO as a whole achieved 51% savings compared to fossil fuels.

Despite the poor performance by many, the report also identifies suppliers who are demonstrating what can be achieved. Greenergy and Shell undertook independent sustainability audits of Brazilian sugar cane, with Shell also carrying out independent audits of German oilseed rape. Lissan and Topaz supplied all of their fuel from wastes and by-products. There are also many companies supplying only biofuels and meeting all three sustainability targets.

RFA chief executive Nick Goodall said: “We’ve seen some progress from suppliers in meeting the challenge of sourcing their biofuels responsibly, but in many cases it has been disappointingly slow. Too many are lagging behind and dragging overall performance down. With mandatory sustainability criteria due to be introduced with the Renewable Energy Directive, companies currently missing all three targets need to make a step change in performance.”

The implementation of the Renewable Energy Directive across the EU will require that biofuels are guaranteed not to have been grown on recently deforested or highly biodiverse land, potentially favouring those oil companies who have already built relationships with suppliers.

There are indications that the market for certificate trading has begun to mature. Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates traded in much greater volumes than last year and added real value to the sector.

Last October, the government, in what was called the ‘cull of the quangoes’, announced its intention to abolish the RFA as part of a wider review of public spending. The functions of the agency are to be transferred to the Secretary of State for Transport when the abolition takes place.