5 February 2010

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the revised National Renewable Fuel Standard program, also known as RFS2. The regulation is introducing a number of changes to the RFS program as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).

The Renewable Fuels Standard requires biofuels production to grow from last year’s 11.1 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons in 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from “advanced biofuels”. The volume requirements in the finalized regulation are consistent with the EPA proposal of May 2009.

For the first time, some renewable fuels must achieve lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions—compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace—in order to be counted towards compliance with volume standards. The renewable fuel standard volume requirements are set for four categories of fuels:

  1. Cellulosic biofuel—To be classified in this category, fuels must provide a 60% lifecycle GHG emission reduction.
  2. Biomass-based diesel—A 50% GHG emission reduction.
  3. Advanced biofuel—A 50% GHG emission reduction.
  4. Total renewable fuel—The remaining renewable fuel volumes must provide a 20% GHG emission reduction if produced at new facilities (those that commenced construction after December 19, 2007).

The GHG emissions are determined by the EPA as the aggregate quantity of greenhouse gas emissions—including direct emissions and significant indirect emissions such as emissions from land use changes. The emission reductions are relative to the 2005 petroleum fuel baseline.

In the final rulemaking, the EPA relaxed their GHG estimates for a number of conventional biofuels which are now meeting the RFS2 requirements, but were to be disqualified under the RFS2 proposal. In particular, the EPA determined that:

  • Ethanol produced from corn starch at a new natural gas, biomass, or biogas fired facility using advanced efficient technologies will meet the 20% GHG emission reduction threshold.
  • Biobutanol from corn starch also meets the 20% threshold.
  • Biodiesel and renewable diesel from soy oil or waste oils, fats, and greases will meet the 50% GHG threshold for biomass-based diesel.
  • Biodiesel and renewable diesel produced from algal oils will also comply with the 50% threshold should they reach commercial production.
  • Ethanol from sugarcane complies with the applicable 50% reduction threshold for advanced biofuels.
  • Cellulosic ethanol and cellulosic diesel comply with the 60% GHG reduction threshold for cellulosic biofuel.
  • Determinations for additional fuels and fuel pathways can be found in Section V of the preamble.

The EPA has also relaxed the 2010 requirements for cellulosic biofuels, set at 6.5 million ethanol-equivalent gallons. The proposal called for a 100 million gallon target, but many cellulosic fuel companies have delayed or canceled their expansion projects.

A combined 2009/2010 target for biomass-based diesel is set at 1.15 billion gallons, an equivalent of 1.10% of the total fuel volume. This target includes the 2009 requirements, as the previous RFS regulation was lacking a mechanism to enforce the mandated volumes of renewable diesel.

The total renewable mandate for 2010—at 12.95 billion gallons—corresponds to 8.25% of the total fuel volume.

The US government has made several additional announcements related to biofuels:

  • The US Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that would provide financing to increase the conversion of biomass to bioenergy.
  • The President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group released its first report—Growing America’s Fuel—which lays out a strategy to advance the development and commercialization of a sustainable biofuels industry to meet or exceed the nation’s biofuels targets.
  • President Obama created an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage to develop a coordinated federal strategy to speed the development and deployment of clean coal technologies. The President calls for five to ten commercial demonstration projects to be up and running by 2016.

Source: US EPA