Europe’s largest annual gathering on biofuels, World Biofuels Markets, brought together over 1500 international delegates March 13-15 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Experts and executives from across the sector showed up to analyze the commercialization of biofuels, as well as discuss challenges and developments in aviation, food versus fuel, algae, waste-to-fuel, emerging markets for biofuels, the investment challenges facing the industry as the global economy ebbs and flows, and the ongoing issues of indirect land use facing biofuels producers.
In the final keynote session the conference delegates heard from the US Navy on the strategic importance of using biofuels in their aircraft, ships, and vehicles, from Solazyme on their advancements in sustainable fuels for aviation and transportation, and from Flagship Ventures regarding investments in innovation and new technologies.
Day 3 concluded with sessions dedicated to the up-and-coming algae industry, waste-to-fuel technologies, and the future of biorefining. Delegates heard from entrepreneurs, investors, and scientists regarding the use of macroalgae (seaweed) for fuels and chemicals, algae growth in photobioreactors, and the use of waste products such as municipal solid waste and forest residue for fuels and other bio-based products.
The algae sessions drew an overflow crowd to see Will Thurmond, from Emerging Markets’ panel featuring Syed Isa from Malaysia, Israel’s Ohad Zuckerman and Joel Butler from the U.S. compare their microalgae views and experience.
Also during the event, WBM announced the results of its annual industry survey. With more than 100 biofuels leaders participating, several trends were evident:
- feedstocks are shifting to non-food and waste;
- the biggest growth opportunities for biofuels are in Asia;
- the commercial aviation industry and the US Military will lead in advancing aviation biofuels; but,
- government policy and high oil prices will be the triggers for continued global growth
Leaders were asked which next generation feedstocks they thought would be the most promising in 2012. The responses were fairly evenly split among municipal solid waste (at 26%), non-food energy crops such as camelina and jatropha (24%) and algae (20%). Cellulosic trailed slightly (17%), and waste gas (8%).
Respondents were clear in their beliefs that the future investments in biofuels companies in the coming decade will be in Asia – with nearly half of recipients identifying this region. Europe (17%) and North America (15%) placed a distant second and third, respectively.
By far the global price of oil is seen as the major driver of continued investment, with 44% calling that the biggest factor. But government mandates followed with more than 27% driven by mandates and policies in Asia spurring development of clean energy, whereas in the US and Europe policies are subject to the forces of political parties that have not yet been able to fully commit to long term clean energy policies.
One sector that is truly global is the aviation industry, and more than two of three respondents (68.7%) believe this industry will be most influential in driving use of biofuels in the future. The US Military, which has conducted significant tests of a range of biofuels and has committed to fueling half of its fleet with biofuels by 2020 was also seen as a major driver of use (22%).
Source: Green Power Conferences and Syed Isa