Definition of input data to assess GHG default emissions from biofuels in EU legislation



Directive EU 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources has been officially ratified in December 2018 for the post-2020 framework. It is a new iteration of the Renewable Energy Directive RED, the so-called ‘recast’, work on which began in 2016. The Directive fixes a minimum requirement for greenhouse gas (GHG) savings for biofuels and bioliquids for the period from 2021 to 2030, and sets the rules for calculating the greenhouse impact of biofuels, bioliquids and their fossil fuels comparators. To help economic operators to declare the GHG emission savings of their products, default and typical values for a number of specific pathways are listed in the annexes of the RED-recast (Annex V). The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) (2009/28/EC) and the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) (2009/30/EC), amended in 2015 by Directive (EU) 2015/1513 (so called ‘ILUC Directive’) are valid until 2020.

The Joint Research Center of the European Commission (JRC) is in charge of defining input values to be used for the calculation of default GHG emissions for biofuels, bioliquids, solid and gaseous biomass pathways. 

This report describes the assumptions made by the JRC when compiling the new updated data set used to calculate default and typical GHG emissions for the different biofuels pathways included in Annex V of Directive EU 2018/2001 (1). 

This final version updates and replaces the previous report (version 1c) published in July 2017 (2) after the publication of the Commission proposal COM(2016)767. The updated input data are based on additional information provided by companies for some pathways and additional research carried out by the JRC. The pathways mainly affected by these final updates are: palm oil, waste cooking oil, animal fat and HVO.   

The input values described in this report can be directly used by stakeholders to better understand the default emissions in the directive and the results of JRC calculations. 

The database consists of tables detailing the inputs and outputs of the processes used to build the biofuels pathways. Data were derived from reports and databases of emission inventories produced by international organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), peer-reviewed journal publications as well as original data provided by stakeholders and industrial associations. 

The geographical scope is the European Union; therefore, the data are aimed at being representative of the supply to the EU market.

The report contains general input data used in various pathways (such as fossil fuel provision, supply of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and process chemicals; soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from biofuel crop cultivation, etc.) and specific data for liquid biofuels (20 pathways), e.g. ethanol, biodiesel, and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) production from various feedstocks and some second generation pathways (e.g. wheat straw to ethanol, forest residues to synthetic diesel, etc.). 

For each pathway, the input data used in all processes (from cultivation of feedstock to conversion, transport and distribution of the final product), including their sources, are shown and described. 

Furthermore, the report describes the review process undertaken by the JRC for the definition of input data and related methodological choices. In particular, it contains the main outcomes of four meetings organized by the JRC with the support of DG ENERGY of the European Commission for technical experts and stakeholders (experts workshops in 2011 and 2016, and stakeholders workshops in 2013 and 2016). Detailed comments were collected after all meetings and taken into account by the JRC to finalise the dataset and the calculations. 

There are several possible sources of uncertainty and data variation. Firstly, the main factor is linked to the geographical variability of some processes (e.g. cultivation techniques and land productivity). The data are aimed at being representative for production of biofuels' consumed in the whole EU, therefore the dataset may not represent exactly each specific condition. In these cases, it is possible and recommended to economic operators to calculate actual values.

Secondly, technological differences may have significant impact; in this case, the values and pathways were disaggregated in order to represent the most common technological options.

Thirdly, for some processes there is a lack or scarcity of data; in this regard the largest possible set of modelling and empirical data has been analysed (e.g. publications, handbooks, emissions inventory guidebooks, LCA databases and, whenever available, data from stakeholders etc.).  


Padella, Monica;  O’Connell, Adrian;  Giuntoli, Jacopo;  Bulgheroni, C;  Edwards, Robert;  Marelli, Luisa;  Koeble, Renate

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)