Biofuels production and development in the European Union

Sep 2023

Feature article in IEA Bioenergy Task 39 Newsletter Issue #62, by Marco Buffi and Nicolae Scarlat of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Full newsletter available here


  • The EU-27 supply of biofuels in 2020 was around 16 Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (Mtoe), which accounted for 6.3% of the total transport fuel consumption in the EU. About 85% of biofuels supply came from primary production within the EU.
  • In 2020, the overall EU production of biofuels was 20 billion litres per year, of which 15 billion litres (about 13 Mtoe) biodiesel and 5 billion litres (about 3 Mtoe) bioethanol. Most biofuels are conventional biofuels produced from vegetable oil as rapeseed, sugar beets and maize, but a growing amount of them is produced from feedstocks such as used cooking oil (listed in Annex IX (Part A and B) of the Renewable Energy Directive 2018/2001 (RED II), reaching more than 4 Mtoe in 2020, representing around 25% of total biofuel consumption. Of this, 1.2 Mtoe are advanced biofuels, produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks listed in Part A, with a limited planned production up to 1.85 Mt/y.
  • After the Covid-19 period, the production of liquid biofuels for road transport remained almost constant, but a rapid market uptake is expected in the coming years, in particular for advanced biofuels as biomethane and aviation biofuels.
  • New policy mechanisms have been promoted to stimulate the production of biofuels, in particular the Fit-for-55 package revising the RED II and setting more ambitious targets for GHG emissions reduction by 2030. The package also introduced specific targets for non-biological fuels, aviation and maritime biofuels.
  • As part of the REPowerEU plan the EC proposed in May 2022 to further increase the share of energy from renewable sources in the gross final consumption of energy to 45% by 2030. REPowerEU is the action for substituting fossil fuels, reducing the dependence on Russian fossil fuels and accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition, to further deployment of renewables.
  • REPowerEU has also set a goal to promote renewable gases such as hydrogen and biomethane and in particular to increase biomethane production to 35 bcm (billion cubic meters) by 2030 to replace natural gas imports.
  • Advanced biofuels are expected to play an increasing role in transport: a sub-target for advanced biofuels supplied to the transport sector was set at 0.2% in 2022; 1% in 2025 and 3.5% in 2030, integrating the addition of a double counting for these fuels (according to the Council’s revision of Council’ position on the Fit-for-55). More ambitions targets are currently revised, given the necessity for a higher greenhouse gas emission reduction from transport sector.
  • Several delegated acts are expected to be adopted by the European Commission, as requested by the RED II: delegated act setting the rules to determine the sustainability and eligibility of hydrogen and non-biological fuels (released in February 2023); delegated act setting the methodology for bio-carbon in co-processing crude oil and bio-based feedstock; delegated act updating the RED II Annex IX list for the feedstocks eligible for advanced biofuels production (pending, 2023).