Biofuels certification and verification systems in Europe

As biofuels gain market share and international trading of biomass, raw materials and biofuels expands, the need to ensure socio-economic sustainability along the whole supply chain becomes more pressing. This includes aspects such as land use, agricultural practices, competition with food, energy efficiency and GHG emissions, life cycle analysis (LCA), etc.

A strategy to achieve sustainability includes the need for certification systems. Developing certification procedures for biomass feedstock to be used in biofuel production requires identification and assessment of existing systems followed by measures taken to improve them. Certification procedures need to be applicable at both global and local level and relate both to small farmers or foresters as well as large conglomerates.

Sustainability of a given biofuel needs to be guaranteed in a transparent way. This is only possible if appropriate policy measures influencing and steering the overall supply chain are adopted. A strategy to achieve sustainability includes the need for certification systems (i.e. proof of compliance with sustainability criteris) and systems for verifying the origin of sustainable biofuels.

EC certification of sustainable biofuels

On 10 June 2010, the EC announced its scheme for certifying sustainable biofuels, part of a set of guidelines explaining how the Renewable Energy Directive, coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented.

The following schemes that "demonstrate compliance with the sustainability criteria for biofuels" were recognised as at April 2014:

1. ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification)

2. Bonsucro EU

3. RTRS EU RED (Round Table on Responsible Soy EU RED)

4. RSB EU RED (Roundtable of Sustainable Biofuels EU RED)

5. 2BSvs (Biomass Biofuels voluntary scheme)

6. RBSA(Abengoa RED Bioenergy Sustainability Assurance)

7. Greenergy (Greenergy Brazilian Bioethanol verification programme)

8. Ensus voluntary scheme under RED for Ensus bioethanol production

9. Red Tractor (Red Tractor Farm Assurance Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet Scheme)

10. SQC (Scottish Quality Farm Assured Combinable Crops (SQC) scheme)

11. Red Cert

12. NTA 8080

13. RSPO RED (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil RED)

14. Biograce GHG calculation tool

15. HVO Renewable Diesel Scheme for Verification of Compliance with the RED sustainability criteria for biofuels

16. Gafta Trade Assurance Scheme

17. KZR INIG System

18. Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops

19. Universal Feed Assurance Scheme

EC Projects on Biofuels Certification

Global-Bio-Pact Project

Global-Bio-Pact, co-funded under FP7, aimed to develop and harmonize global sustainability certification systems for biomass production, conversion systems and trade in order to prevent negative socio-economic impacts. The project concluded in 2013.

Systems for verifying the origin of sustainable biofuels

Register of Biofuels Origination (RBO) Consortium

The aim of the Register of Biofuels Origination (RBO) Consortium is to provide a 'simple and solid' international system to act as a reference tool for EU Member States authorities and EC Commission to verify the genuine origin of biofuels substances to be considered as advanced biofuels and claimed for extra incentives and/or for double counting, without interfering with the national definitions and listings of these products (different definitions and lists are set in each EU Member State).

RBO suggets that an imbalance between incentives and verification tools increases the probability of incorrect trading practices. This is facilitated by two current realities: firstly, final biofuel products often have the same chemical composition, regardless of whether they originate from waste, traditional crops or other sources; secondly, the absence of a common European scheme for registering physical biofuels under a single system generates the possibility for semi-fraudulent untrustworthy multiple claims of the same physical biofuels substances under two or more national schemes. [Source: RBO Consortium Launch Meeting communication, January 2013].

The NABISY - Sustainable biomass system in Germany

The German NABISY sustainable biomass system illustrates how a "proof of sustainability" database can be implemented to 'track' trade in (and movements of) sustainable biomass/biofuels produced by EU Member States as well as biofuels imported through EU ports and subsequently traded within the EU.

In Germany, pursuant to the provisions laid down in the Biomass-electricity sustainability ordinance (BioST-NachV) and the Biofuel sustainability ordinance (Biokraft-NachV), in the field of biofuels proofs of sustainability or partial proofs of sustainability must be submitted to the customs office in order to be counted against the biofuel quota. The same applies to the claiming of tax relief according to the Energy Tax Act (Energiesteuergesetz (EnergieStG). In the field of bioelectricity, operators of an installation are only entitled to claim remuneration pursuant to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG)) from the network operator, if they submit proofs of sustainability or partial proofs of sustainability.

NABISY facilitates the application of "mass balancing" principles. This ensures that the quantity of sustainable biomass extracted from a mixture [of biomass from various sources] does not exceed the amount of sustainable biomass that has previously been added to the mixture. The type, quantity and other important attributes of sustainable biomass are regulary documented in the mass balance system.

Neste Oil's sustainability verification system

Neste Oil's sustainability verification system was approved by the European Commission in January 2014, who confirmed that it complies with the standards set for reliability, transparency, and independent third-party auditing. Verifications made under the system are always carried out by an impartial, external expert. Existing certificates recognized by the Commission can be used as part of the verification process. The new verification system covers all diesel fuel produced from renewable feedstocks, in accordance with the EU's Renewable Energy Directive.

Trace your Claim (TYC) Database

The Trace your Claim database was developed to ensure that biomass, waste and residue based material which complies with the specific requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive is eligible for ‘double counting’. The database covers the entire supply chain from the point of waste or residue origination via further processing and conversion towards trade and final use by quota obligated parties. Interfaces will be provided to other public databases as well as databases operated by national authorities (e.g. Nabisy) and up- and download functions in order to ease data handling.

The Trace your Claim database can guarantee the origin, product code and the exact quantities of ‘double counting’ material marketed between any of the registered user such as collectors, biodiesel plants and traders. For this purpose users can upload important documents such as waste transfer notes, delivery notes and any other document required for proving compliance with relevant national ordinances. Especially users which from January 1, 2013 will have to comply with the very strict new German legislation (BimschV) will be enabled to document identity preservation [Source: Trace your Claim website].

Certification of sustainable biomass in the EU (for heat and power)

The Sustainable Biomass Partnership SBP Framework of standards and processes enables producers of woody biomass to demonstrate that they source their raw material responsibly and that it complies with the regulatory, including sustainability, requirements applicable to European power generators burning woody biomass to produce energy.

Under the SBP Framework the Biomass Producer, typically a pellet mill, is certified by a SBP-approved Certification Body. To become SBP-approved, a Certification Body must first provide evidence that it meets the SBP requirements regarding its existing accreditations and it must also demonstrate that it has sufficient resources and competence to manage the certification programme.