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Europe’s ethanol industry boosts output of low-carbon fuel and high-protein feed

European renewable ethanol association (ePURE) members produced 5.84 billion litres of ethanol and 5.71 million tonnes of beneficial co-products in 2017, according to new audited data released by the industry group.

A load of feed wheat being delivered to ePURE member Lantmännen Agroetanol’s facility in Norrköping, Sweden.

According to ePURE, some 81 percent of the total 5.84 billion litres of ethanol output produced by its members was for fuel use, with an average of more than 70 percent greenhouse-gas (GHG) savings compared to petrol in 2017.

Ethanol’s GHG-reducing performance increased for the sixth year in a row as the sustainability of European renewable ethanol continues to improve – jumping by more than 4 percentage points over 2016. Of the rest of the ethanol production in 2017, 10 percent was for industrial use and 9 percent for food and beverages.

European renewable ethanol keeps building on its importance as a clean-mobility solution. Every year, ethanol improves its greenhouse-gas-reduction score, reaching more than 70 percent on average in 2017 compared to fossil fuel, said Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary-General of ePURE.

Virtually all of the feedstock used to produce renewable ethanol by ePURE members – including cereals, sugars, wastes, and residues – was grown or sourced in Europe. Along with the fuel, ePURE members’ ethanol refineries also produced 5.71 million tonnes of co-products, including 4.32 million tonnes of animal feed and 0.77 million tonnes of captured carbon dioxide (CO2).

Last year’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) confirmed European ethanol’s status as a good biofuel – one that will be vital to achieving European climate and energy goals. Also, the new data show ethanol production is an important source of animal feed at a time when the EU is trying to reduce its need to import protein, Desplechin said.

According to a new study from Ricardo Energy & Environment, Europe’s push to decarbonise road transport would benefit significantly from the use of low-carbon fuels such as renewable ethanol, especially with a high percentage of cars with internal combustion engines still on Europe’s roads for decades.

ePURE represents 34 companies (including 20 producing members), with 50 plants in 16 EU Member States. In 2017, these companies produced 5.84 billion litres of ethanol – 85 percent of their installed capacity of 6.84 billion litres. ePURE members represent about 2/3 of the total installed ethanol capacity in Europe (graphic courtesy ePURE).

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