UK palm oil-based biodiesel consumption is zero to date in 2015/16

Palm oil plantation Copyright CIFOR
Palm oil plantation Copyright CIFOR

UK import and consumption of palm oil-based biodiesel has fallen dramatically, and currently stands at zero, according to statistics from the UK’s Department for Transport.

The government department has recently published statistics on the UK’s biodiesel industry, analysing the period from 15 April, 2015 to 14 April, 2016.

In the UK, the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation Order (RTFO) requires transport fuel suppliers to ensure that a proportion of the fuel they supply comes from renewable sources (biofuels).

During this period a total of 1,188 million litres of renewable fuel have been supplied, which is 3% of total road and non-road mobile machinery fuel.  A total of 915 million litres (77%) of this renewable fuel has so far been demonstrated to meet the sustainability requirements, according to the Department for Transport.

Of the 915 million litres so far meeting the sustainability requirements, bioethanol comprised 54% of supply, biodiesel 44% and biomethanol 2%. There were also small volumes of biodiesel hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO), biogas and off road biodiesel.

Biodiesel in Europe

The news comes as Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), in 2014, 45% of all the palm oil used in Europe ended up in the tanks of cars and trucks, data from EU vegetable oil industry association Fediol and obtained by T&E has revealed. This is equivalent to four Olympic-size swimming pools of palm oil every day, the green group said.

According to T&E, this is the first time that the sources of biodiesel in Europe have been made public.

The use of palm oil for biodiesel is controversial. In a statement, T&E said: “The expansion of the these plantations [palm oil] into natural rainforest is both having a devastating impact on biodiversity and causing net greenhouse gas emissions, to the effect that palm oil biodiesel is three times worse for the climate than fossil diesel.”

The group stat e that in 2010, a total of 8% of palm oil was used in Europe was for biodiesel.

Commenting on the T&E statement, Clare Wenner, head of renewable transport at the UK’s Renewable Energy Association (REA) said: “We welcome the call for greater accountability and transparency around the use of palm oil in transport.

“The British biodiesel industry has worked hard in partnership with the Department for Transport and Defra to ensure that any palm oil-based biodiesel that is imported and consumed in the UK meets clear sustainability criteria. In fact, our industry does not use it as a feedstock at all.

“In practice, the consumption of imported palm oil-based biodiesel has fallen from 10% of all biofuels consumed in the UK in 2008/09 to 1.2% of biofuels in 2014/15. Its consumption still continues to fall, as the most recent data for 2015/16 shows that absolutely none has been consumed.”

“The REA was an enthusiastic member of the Defra Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and has worked hard in partnership with Government to ensure that all sectors, including those outside the energy industry, only use sustainable palm oil.”

Palm oil plantation Copyright CIFOR