The UK’s Carbon Trust is bringing together a consortium of businesses to develop commercially viable ‘carbon efficient’ biofuel from municipal and wood waste.
The consortium led by Axion Energy, along with Catal International, CARE and Aquafuel Research, will aim to turn the pyrolysis process into a cheap and green way of producing biofuel on a large scale.
The Carbon Trust estimates that using pyrolysis to produce biofuel from waste could achieve a carbon saving of 95% compared to fossil fuels, a much higher figure than conventional biofuels based on crop feedstock.
Using waste to produce biofuel also avoids the controversial issues of increased carbon emissions from land use change and the potential adverse effects on food crop production and prices.
The consortium aims to start producing biofuel from a pilot plant in 2014 and could ultimately produce over 2 million tonnes of biofuel a year from UK biomass.
Despite criticism of the environmental credentials of biofuel, the UK Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) already stipulates that petrol and diesel must include 3.25% of biofuel and this could rise to 10% by 2020 under EU directives.
The Carbon Trust says that pyrolysis offers the cheapest way of producing biofuel and could meet over half of the 2020 RTFO target.
The Government is supporting the effort with £3.8 million over two years, confirmed Transport Minister Sadiq Khan. The Carbon Trust, meanwhile, says it will invest £7 million over 3-4 years in funds from the Departments for Transport and Energy and Climate Change.
“In just a few years pyrolysis could change the way in which we produce biofuels and by 2020 be a commercially viable option,” says Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust.
Within ten years, he says, we could see a network of small-scale biofuel refineries near landfill and other waste sites around the UK.