Report discusses impact of COVID-19 on EU biofuel consumption

By Erin Voegele | July 23, 2020

An annual biofuels report filed with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Information Network discusses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have on biofuel use and production in the European Union.

The report indicates the COVID-19 outbreak is expected cut fossil transportation fuel use by approximately 12 percent in the EU. Bioethanol and biodiesel consumption are expected to decline by approximately 10 percent and six percent, respectively.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, EU biofuel consumption was up, both for ethanol and biodiesel. The rise in ethanol consumption, however, was low at 1.4 percent, with use of the fuel in 2019 barely surpassing the level of consumption achieved in 2011. The consumption of biodiesel and renewable diesel was up 6.4 percent last year.

Due to COVID-19-related market impacts, EU ethanol consumption is expected to fall by approximately 10 percent or 760 million liters (200.77 million gallons) this year. Biodiesel consumption is expected to fall by 6 percent or 1.1 billion liters.

The ethanol blend rate for 2020 is expected to be at 3.8 percent, flat with 2019. The blend rate for biodiesel and renewable diesel is expected to be at 7.1 percent this year, up from 6.7 percent in 2019. The blending of food-based biofuels is estimated at 4.9 percent, up from 4.7 percent in 2019, but still well below the 7 percent cap set the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

Total EU ethanol production for 2020 is expected to be at 5.395 billion liters, with fuel production accounting for 4.684 billion liters of that volume, compared to 5.759 billion liters and 5.19 billion liters respectively in 2019.

Ethanol imports are expected to reach 1.25 billion liters this year, including 665 million liters of fuel ethanol imports. Ethanol imports were at approximately 1.124 billion liters in 2019, including 835 million liters of fuel ethanol imports.

The report shows the EU currently has 57 first generation ethanol plants in operation with a combined nameplate capacity of 8.925 billion liters. Approximately 52 of that capacity is expected to be in use during 2020. The EU also has two cellulosic ethanol plants in operation with a combined 60 million gallons of capacity. Those cellulosic plants are currently operating at approximately 42 percent of nameplate capacity.

Corn is expected to be the top feedstock for EU ethanol production this year, followed by sugar beets, and wheat.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the USDA FAS GAIN website