March 5, 2013, London, UK – Biofuels made from wood waste and sugarcane have languished well below expectations for years but new production coming on line promises explosive growth by 2015, says the chief executive of producer Beta Renewables.
The United States produced just 20,000 gallons of so-called cellulosic biofuel last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That was a mere 0.04 percent of a 500-million-gallon target the U.S. government set in 2007.
Beta Renewables opened its first plant in Italy in the final quarter of last year and sees 2013 as a turning point for the industry as demand surges and more production comes online.
Chief Executive Guido Ghisolfi told Reuters he expects the industry to produce around 30 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel from the United States and Europe this year.
"The boom year will be 2015 with 15 to 20 plants producing hundreds of millions of gallons," Ghisolfi said.
"Capital expenditure is not the risk anymore. The technology is there to be seen. The only risk left is the availability of the biomass," he said.
The availability of biomass could be one reason why the United States is slow to lead the market, Ghisolfi said. The cost of the cellulosic biofuel produced in the United States is likely to be higher than elsewhere because it could be limited in the type of biomass feedstock that can be used.
"There are more plants being built in the United States but cost-wise it will not be at the front. For that, Brazil will be the frontrunner and Southeast Asia is immediately behind," Ghisolfi said.
In Europe, Ghisolfi expects to see three to four plants in Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain and France devoted to specific types of biomass in the near future. He expects new players to emerge in eastern Europe over the next year.
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