Global Biofuel Market to Top One-Quarter Trillion

The dream of cellulosic ethanol powered vehicles and biorefineries is slowly coming to life, climbing through contentious issues of fuel versus food, low petroleum oil prices and sustainability. Brazil is growing quickly alongside the expanding biofuel market with predicted long term demand.

recently released biofuels report by the Pike Research held a positive outlook for biofuels, which will be supplemented by increasingly advanced feedstocks, but will eventually face competition from drop-in fuels like "green gasoline and renewable diesel."

The Pike report also predicts the world biofuel market to surpass $280 billion by 2022, due in no small part to national biofuel consumption mandates. These consumption mandates result in impressive global evolution rates, with the worldwide compound annual growth rate for biodiesel from 2009 to 2022 to be 15 percent, according to Pike Research.

Big oil is also making forays into biofuel, such as BP, which has already pledged over a billion to biofuel projects. In a report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, oil and gas companies were found to have invested $58.4 billion between 2000 and 2008.

One of the top three biofuel markets, though dwarfed by its EU and US competitors, Brazil already provides more than 50% of the fuel by volume in vehicles with gasoline engines. With Brazil's increasing presence as an oil power, the current administration has worked on increasing renewable energy output alongside growing oil reserves.

The report's author, Robert McDonald, explained that the long term trend for ethanol to replace gasoline has continued in Brazil, as ethanol is affordable for flex fuel-friendly consumers. "Global policies to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint are also contributing to the trend for increasing biofuels demand in Brazil," he added.

McDonald said in response to Brazil's recent oil sales to China, "My personal view is that Brazil will continue its long-term biofuels trends and that the future will see it exporting both crude petroleum and biofuels. Brazil's increasing role as an oil power can coexist with its biofuel policies."

With rainforest destruction being one of the greatest accelerants of climate change, will the search for acceptable biomass land lead to deforestation? Deforestation has previously accounted for the majority of Brazil's emissions, however this year Amazon deforestation dropped to lower than ever recorded, per Monga Bay.

With new microcrops in development and new biomass on the way, the Pike report predicts a series of "growth spurts" due to feedstock advances, starting with low-grade greases, followed by jatropha oil (which has been met with mixed opinions) and finally algal oil.

The biofuel market is one that presents tremendous opportunity, supported by global efforts towards emissions reduction and an increasing Big Oil presence. The path ahead may be hampered by feedstock availability, production capacity and infrastructure compatibility, but the future remains bright for biofuels, a market valued at $100 billion-plus per year.

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