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The changing face of the planet: The role of bioenergy, biofuels and bio based products in global land use change

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The changing face of the planet: The role of bioenergy, biofuels and bio based products in global land use change

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Are you responsible for business development, corporate social responsibility or developing policy?

This essential briefing takes a closer look at the complex land use issues surrounding the emerging bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based product sectors.

Are you responsible for business development, corporate social responsibility or developing policy?

This essential briefing takes a closer look at the complex land use issues surrounding the emerging bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based product sectors.

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The changing face of the planet: The role of bioenergy, biofuels and bio based products in global land use change

  1. 1. NNFCC The Bioeconomy Consultants The changing face of the planet: The role of bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based products in global land use change May 2012
  2. 2. D o we have enough land to feed the planet and produce the low carbon energy, fuels and materials needed by a population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050? As the world’s population increases But biomass has one crucial property and greater pressure is put on global that makes it unique; it is renewable and resources we need to think carefully takes just a few years to make instead of about how we manage the ground thousands or even millions of years. beneath our feet and what changes to It also has a key advantage over other land use will mean to environmentally low carbon technologies. Biomass fixes responsible businesses. carbon into something tangible which Despite adopting more efficient can be stored and moved, and will be practices, our appetite for energy, fuels available even when the sun isn’t shining and materials continues to grow and or the wind isn’t blowing. so too does the cost of fossil fuel. The As a source of energy we can use it to challenge we now face is to find a cost- meet peak demand in national electricity effective, sustainable solution to this grids. It is also our only low carbon problem but is large-scale biomass alternative to natural gas and liquid cultivation the answer? NNFCC takes a transport fuels. And as a source of closer look at the issues. chemicals it provides a viable alternative Why biomass? to many oil-based plastics. Plants convert solar radiation into biomass, which can be used to make Growing demand for biomass Responsibility for developing low carbon food, feed, fuel, energy and materials. sources of energy, like biofuels and Biomass shares many properties with bioenergy, often falls on government. But fossil fuels, after all coal and oil is simply the drivers vary between countries and biomass which has undergone a physical this is having a major role in shaping the and chemical change under extreme developing market. pressure and temperature.
  3. 3. Around 85% of the energy, fuels & materials we use come from irreplacable fossil fuels. In Europe, energy policy is largely Similarly in Brazil, the established geared towards reducing the carbon infrastructure and suitable climate make emissions associated with energy and conditions ideal for growing sugar cane fuel production. and they export over a billion dollars worth of bioethanol each year1 to More environmentally friendly fuel and international fuel and chemical markets. energy markets are being stimulated to meet future targets set out by the In fact, Brazilian bioethanol exports Renewable Energy Directive and new are second only in the world to the US1, sustainability criteria will ensure where long-term energy security is now biomass is sourced responsibly. as much of a political priority as short- term economic growth. In comparison, economic development plays a far more important role in According to the BP Statistical Review2, countries like Canada and in the Baltics, 753 billion barrels or close to 55 per where their large wood resources are cent of the world’s oil can be found in exported for use in the paper, timber and the Middle East. The US in comparison woodfuel sectors. contains around 2 per cent of the world’s
  4. 4. Bioplastics currently account for a little over 1% of the world plastics market. oil reserves but currently uses more Studies3 have shown that nearly 50 per than 21 per cent of it. This also means cent of consumers say environmental that with current trends, US oil reserves issues affect their purchasing decisions. will be depleted in the next 10 years2, Consequently brands are looking to putting even greater pressure on oil demonstrate sustainability and show imports. corporate social responsibility by This has driven the US to invest investing in bio-based products like millions into developing the market bioplastics, compostable packaging and for domestically grown biofuels and renewable building materials to give mandating their use through the them an advantage in the marketplace. Renewable Fuel Standard. Brands are also aware of the role that In comparison to energy and fuel campaigners can have on consumer markets, the role of the consumer in the choices, as demonstrated by the bio-based products market is far more Greenpeace campaign against Nestlé’s prominent. This is partly because the use of unsustainable palm oil which market is considerably smaller but also prompted Nestlé to change their because there is more direct contact procurement policy. between product and consumer. Consumers are increasingly familiar Competition for land On paper we have more than enough with terms like ‘low carbon’, ‘sustainable’ room to satisfy our appetite for food, and ‘eco-friendly’, and this is having an feed, bioenergy, biofuels and bioplastics impact on what they buy. for decades to come.
  5. 5. According to the FAO and OECD4 we could more than double the amount Looking to the future Being prepared for the future allows of land currently in crop production businesses to develop the correct around the globe, from 1400 million to business development strategy that over 3300 million hectares. will give them the edge over their However, not all of this land can competitors. sustainably be brought into cultivation. Predicting how land use will change over Population growth, protection of food the forthcoming years is hugely complex security and changing diets will increase but vitally important to anyone investing competition for land dramatically. in the biomass supply chain. We also need to protect our ecosystem Land requirements for biomass will services, forests and areas of high depend on how future markets and biodiversity against exploitation. technologies develop, and also how Projections4 suggest this will leave quickly we can continue along the path between 250 and 800 million hectares of towards a circular economy where land available for other uses. ‘waste’ becomes the raw material for other processes. But precisely how much of this land will be needed to satisfy the growing We are starting to see significant demands for bioenergy, biofuels progress in this area and those who are and bioplastics remains a source of not aware of the developing market are uncertainty. at risk of being left behind. Carbon recycling: an integrated approach.
  6. 6. 13% of the coarse grain, 15% of the vegetable oil & 30% of the sugar cane grown globally in 2020 could be used to make biofuels4. Although bioenergy and biofuels will This falls within the range of land area increasingly utilise non-food feedstocks potentially available for non-food crops. to meet sustainability demands, crops But even converting this “available” grown for energy and fuel production land remains a challenge, as much of it could use some 117 million hectares of is on continents like Africa and South agriclutural land by 2030, if we assume America, often far from agricultural some “extended” land use5. infrastructure and significant investment would be needed to realistically make In addition, if the bioplastics industry this land available for cultivating crops. continues to grow at its current rate, they could replace up to 10 per cent of This can lead to land grabbing and all plastics by 2030. This could require population displacement; two major an additional 14 million hectares of land. issues that are stifling progress. In addition, when we look further into the Combining the estimated size of the future, land is likely to become further bioenergy, biofuels and bioplastics constrained as the finite amount of land markets by 2030 suggests we would we have available is put under increased require more than 130 million hectares pressure from the growing global of land. economy. Land use from different bio-based markets in 2030 (ranges given in brackets). Market Percentage of total Land required, Bioenergy & Biofuels5 3 (1 to 9) 117 (50 to 300) market in 2030 millions of hectares Bioplastics 10 (5 to 20) 14 (4 to 55) Total - 129 (54 to 355)
  7. 7. And should bioenergy and biofuels represent 6 per cent of the total global Land use from different bio-based markets energy market by 2050; the land needed in 2050 (ranges given in brackets). for crops could rise to 400 million Market Percentage of Land required, hectares, if we assume some “extended” total market millions of land use5. Bioenergy 6 (1 to 18) 400 (100 to 700) in 2050 hectares & Biofuels5 The use of biomass for plastics Bioplastics 20 (10 to 40) 34 (10 to 200) production will also continue to Total - 434 (110 to 900) increase. By 2050 bioplastics could account for up to 20 per cent of all As competition for resources increases plastics or around 142 million tonnes this could potentially drive up feedstock per year. This would require 34 million costs and put greater pressure on hectares of land. sustainability; directly and indirectly impacting on biodiversity, water and This means that all together we may fertiliser use across the globe. need over 430 million hectares to meet our requirements for bioenergy, biofuels For example, some parts of America, and bioplastics in 2050, which could Western Europe and Southern Asia may seriously test the limits of the amount of become almost entirely dependent on land sustainably available for growing imports of nutrients. non-food crops. Waste biomass is set to become an increasingly important resource.
  8. 8. 1200 Bioenergy and Biofuels 1000 Bioplastics Upper maximum amount of sustainable land Land required, millions of hectares 800 600 400 Lower maximum amount of sustainable land 200 0 Low Medium High Low Medium High 2030 2050 Predicted biomass demand scenarios versus land availability in 2030 and 2050.
  9. 9. Energy markets could also benefit from adopting more efficient practices. In What is the solution? Future land use is difficult to predict but the UK, co-firing of coal and wood is what is certain is that competition for an efficient way to make electricity land will increase. but this may not be the best use of our We can minimise competition for land resources7,8. by increasing it’s productivity. Improved Technological advances in fermentation, breeding and management techniques gasification and pyrolysis, have made will increase the productivity of crops, it possible to convert biomass into particularly non-food crops, like willow electricity, heat, fuels and chemicals and Miscanthus, which have been at high conversion efficiencies. This largely uncultivated6. An annual yield approach also allows us to make better increase of just 2 per cent would double use of non-food feedstocks such as production volumes by 2050 without wood, algae, household rubbish and any land expansion. agricultural residues. We can also use these feedstocks High volumes of agricultural residues better. For example, we can produce 3.1 are generated in South America and Asia, tonnes of polyethylene from a hectare and are likely to increase in the medium of brazilian sugar cane but the same term in line with food production. By hectare of brazilian sugar cane can make utilising these resources we can reduce 7.9 tonnes of polylactic acid. Both are demands on land while still returning used in the production of bioplastics that some of the nutrients back to the soil. offer similar functionality. Global supply constraints and opportunities in 2050.
  10. 10. Another promising option for reducing particualry those with limited renewable land use requirements is to build alternatives. intergrated biorefineries. By building refineries that produce food, feed, energy, fuel, chemicals and nutrients Conclusion: Be prepared Businesses are increasingly being judged together; we can minimise waste and on their ability to manage supply chains produce a wide range of chemicals and sustainably. fuels tailored to specific purposes. As the transition to a low carbon In many cases there are also alternative economy gathers speed, businesses sources of renewable energy and fuels need to be proactive rather than reactive that can replace fossil fuels, but biomass to the changing marketplace, as the is our only low carbon source of plastic, decisions they make now will determine aviation and marine fuel. This is where their success in the future. our efforts should be focussed. To ensure we minimise the impact In the mean time these developing of bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based markets will benefit from the growth of products on land use and food more mature sectors like road transport production we must: biofuels and bioenergy, including • Use our existing resources better by logistical and technology developments driving innovation such as the ability to process • Use more non-food feedstocks like lignocellulosic feedstocks like wood. wastes, agricultural residues, algae But we urgently need more stable and and lignocellulosic crops harmonised policies, backed up by • Push policies towards sectors with bold decision making to support the limited alternatives development of low carbon technologies, General guiding principles for the future use of biomass, larger words have greater priority for biomass use.
  11. 11. Image courtesy of Drax. Background Information 1. USDA (2011) ‘Brazil’s Ethanol Industry: Looking Forward’ - www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ 2. BP (2011) ‘Statistical Review’ - BIO02/BIO02.pdf 3. Tangible Branding (2011) ‘Market www.bp.com/statisticalreview Research’ - 4. FAO & OECD (2011) ‘Agricultural www.tangiblebranding.com Outlook 2011-2020’ - 5. Committee on Climate Change (2011) www.agri-outlook.org ‘Bioenergy Review’ - www.theccc.org. 6. UKERC (2011) ‘Energy from biomass: uk/reports/bioenergy-review the size of the global resource’ - www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki- 7. NNFCC (2009) ‘Review of download_file.php?fileId=2098 Technologies for Gasification of Biomass and Wastes, NNFCC 09-008’ - www.nnfcc.co.uk/tools/review- of-technologies-for-gasification-of- 8. NNFCC (2010) ‘GHG Benefits from biomass-and-wastes-nnfcc-09-008 Use of Vegetable Oils for Electricity, Heat, Transport and Industrial Purposes, NNFCC 10-016’ - www.nnfcc.co.uk/tools/ghg-benefits- from-use-of-vegetable-oils-for- electricity-heat-transport-and- industrial-purposes-nnfcc-10-016
  12. 12. NNFCC is a leading international consultancy with expertise on the conversion of biomass to bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based products. NNFCC Biocentre York Science Park Innovation Way York YO10 5DG United Kingdom Telephone: +44 (0)1904 435182 Email: enquiries@nnfcc.co.uk Website: www.nnfcc.com

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