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US EPA adopts 2013 renewable fuel standards

7 August 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted the final 2013 annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel under the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program, known as RFS2.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, reaching an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, every year EPA issues percentage-based renewable fuel standards for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner, importer and non-oxygenate blender of gasoline or diesel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.

The final 2013 overall volumes and standards are:

Final 2013 RFS2 Fuel Volumes and Percentage Standards
CategoryVolume*Percentage Standard
Cellulosic biofuels6 million gallons0.004%
Biomass-based diesel1.28 billion gallons1.13%
Advanced biofuels2.75 billion gallons1.62%
Total renewable fuels16.55 billion gallons9.74%
* Volumes are ethanol-equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel which is actual.

Most of RFS2 requirements are met by blending ethanol into gasoline. However, because the sales of gasoline in the United States have not been growing as once estimated, the percentage standards are increasing faster than it was expected. Considering that the practical maximum blend level for ethanol is 10% (E10), the RFS2 program is approaching a blend wall—a point where biofuels cannot be incorporated into fuels at the required levels. The blend wall limit and other biofuel issues are now under review by Congress.

The EPA believes compliance with the 2013 standards is possible using the “substantial number” of biofuel credits (Renewable Identification Numbers, RIN) carried over from 2012. The 2014 obligations, however, are no longer feasible. “EPA does not currently foresee a scenario in which the market could consume enough ethanol sold in blends greater than E10, and/or produce sufficient volumes of non-ethanol biofuels to meet the volumes of total renewable fuel and advanced biofuel as required by statute for 2014,” said the agency.

The EPA has also provided additional lead time to obligated parties by extending the compliance date with the 2013 standards to June 30, 2014.

Biodiesel can be used to fulfill the requirements for both biomass-based diesel and for advanced biofuels. Under EPA classification, US-made soy-based biodiesel reduces GHG emissions by more than 50%, which is the minimum reduction for the latter category. At the 2012 production level of almost 1.1 billion gallons, biodiesel filled 87% of the 2012 advanced biofuel requirement and can be expected to fill a majority of the 2013 quota.

The standard for cellulosic biofuels has been reduced to 6 million gallons, from 10.45 million gallons in 2012. This reduction follows a court ruling of January 2013 that invalidated the 2012 EPA standard because cellulosic biofuels were not commercially available.

The above percentage standards—with the exception of biomass-based diesel—are based on ethanol-equivalent volumes. The ethanol-equivalent volume is determined from the volumetric energy content of a biofuel in comparison to the volumetric energy content of denatured ethanol.

Source: US EPA