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Biofuels Growth Seen Slowing

by Melody M. Bomgardner
March 17, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 11

Growth of the biofuels industry will slow significantly as it shifts to nonfood feedstocks, concludes a report from market research firm Lux Research. Output of first-generation biofuels, mainly corn ethanol, grew by almost 20% annually from 2005 to 2013, but growth will be only 3.2% per year from 2013 to 2017 as the ethanol industry matures, Senior Analyst Andrew Soare says. Non-ethanol biofuels, such as renewable diesel, butanol, biobased jet fuel, and biocrude will grow fastest yet will remain a tiny portion of the market. The transition to technologies that take in waste or cellulose “could unlock significant economic advantages,” the report notes, but the required conversion processes are not yet mature. Next-generation facilities also tend to be smaller in scale than corn ethanol plants, which can produce up to 100 million gal per year. For example, last month Cool Planet Energy Systems said it has begun construction of its first commercial renewable gasoline facility, in Alexandria, La. The plant will produce 10 million gal per year of fuel made from wood residues via pyrolysis. Smaller facilities cost less to build and are easier to locate near biomass, Cool Planet says.


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