From 1st- to 2nd-Generation Biofuel Technologies: An overview of current industry and RD&D activities (A joint Task 39 and IEAHQ Report)

Nov 2008

Full Report and Extended Executive Summary
It is increasingly understood that 1st–generation biofuels (produced primarily from food crops such as grains, sugar beet and oil seeds) are limited in their ability to achieve targets for oil-product substitution, climate change mitigation, and economic growth. Their sustainable production is under review, as is the possibility of creating undue competition for land and water used for food and fibre production. A possible exception that appears to meet many of the acceptable criteria is ethanol produced from sugar cane.

The cumulative impacts of these concerns have increased the interest in developing biofuels produced from non-food biomass. Feedstocks from ligno-cellulosic materials include cereal straw, bagasse, forest residues, and purpose-grown energy crops such as vegetative grasses and short rotation forests. These “2nd-generation biofuels” could avoid many of the concerns facing 1st-generation biofuels and potentially offer greater cost reduction potential in the longer term.

This report looks at the technical challenges facing 2nd-generation biofuels, evaluates their costs and examines related current policies to support their development and deployment. The potential for production of more advanced biofuels is also discussed. Although significant progress continues to be made to overcome the technical and economic challenges, 2nd-generation biofuels still face major constraints to their commercial deployment. Policy recommendations are given as to how these constraints might best be overcome in the future.