AFBI welcomes the Royal Society report on new research into biofuels
AFBI has welcomed the recent publication of the ‘Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges’ report by the Royal Society.
The ‘Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges’ report highlights the role that lignocellulosic biomass are likely to make in new generations of liquid biofuels.
Dr George McIlroy, AFBI Chief Executive, commented that the report presents a thorough and balanced evaluation of the science behind existing and potential new liquid biofuel developments and places a strong emphasis on the need for research in many key areas of biomass and biofuel production, including biotechnology, agronomy, land use assessment and biofuel supply potential.
Dr McIlroy stated that whilst the report highlights the role that lignocellulosic biomass from crops such as grass, short rotation coppice, miscanthus, forestry and straw are likely to make in new generations of liquid biofuels, it challenges government departments and devolved administrations to develop long term policies to support low-carbon biofuel research, development, innovation and use.
Impacts of biomass and biofuel crops on the soil, water, emissions and biodiversity are identified in the report as requiring significant further research. New crops for biofuels are less well understood than traditional crops and the UK agronomy community is challenged by the report to apply its well established expertise to advancing knowledge on biofuel crops. He endorses the report’s suggestion that life-cycle analyses of biofuel production and use must also play an important role in forming policy, including modelling the impacts of displacing other farming or food production enterprises.
The authors of the report suggest that in some cases policy has gone ahead of the science on which it is meant to be based. Current bioethanol and biodiesel production systems are assessed in the report as bringing carbon emission savings, however new scientific findings are indicating other potentially harmful effects such as higher N2O emissions arising from the use of fertilisers and formalydehyde emissions from vehicles. The report identifies the huge opportunity for the UK research community to make a significant contribution to the development of biofuels and Dr McIlroy highlighted that AFBI is well placed to facilitate aspects of this research through their new Environment and Renewable Energy Centre at AFBI Hillsborough and through their existing AFBI research programmes.
AFBI is developing an Environment and Renewable Energy Centre at its AFBI Hillsborough site incorporating biomass heating from SRC willows, forestry brash and miscanthus, anaerobic digestion of animal manures and solar technologies.
A research programme, at AFBI Hillsborough, into related aspects of agriculturally related renewable energy technologies is being supported by DARD. The project has received funding from the Environment and Renewable Energy Fund.