Transport biofuel production declined 8% globally in 2020

KLM Boeing powered by biofuel

Transport biofuel production declined 8% globally in 2020 as the pandemic limited travel, according to figures released by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Production is expected to recover this year to 2019 volumes, and expand another 7% in 2022 as biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) production increases globally and ethanol expands in India.

However, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 crisis on demand, as well as price competition for sugar cane from sweetener manufacturers in Brazil, continue to keep ethanol production in both the US and Brazil below 2019 levels. 

At the same time, global HVO production capacity is expected to nearly double in the next two years, significantly expanding the capability of producing biofuels from waste and residue feedstocks. Total biofuel demand for transport fell 8% to 150 billion litres (2 590 kb/d) from 2019 to 2020, surpassing the Renewables 2020 forecast of 144 billion litres (2 480 kb/d) for 2020. 

The largest year-on-year drops in output were in Brazilian and US ethanol production, and in biodiesel production in Europe. Lower output in these markets accounted for 90% of biofuel production declines from 2019 to 2020.
The pandemic has also delayed biofuel policy implementation in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Brazil, for which production growth had previously been anticipated. 

Nevertheless, biofuel production is expected to be 7% higher in 2022 than in 2021 owing to HVO and biodiesel expansion in the US and Indonesia, and a return to 2019 ethanol production levels in Brazil. Although total biofuel production returns to the 2019 level in 2021, ethanol production is forecast to remain 3.6% below the 2019 amount, largely due to a slow rebound in the US and Brazil. Production will remain lower by 8% in Brazil and 5% in the US in 2021.

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