Spent an interesting morning yesterday on the Hammersmith Flyover, or rather at a BP filling station adjacent to it, where I learned about new biofuel developments that could help alleviate our dependence on ‘black gold’ in the future.
BP is experimenting with three new biofuel blends as part of its deal to fuel the Olympic fleet of BMWs. About 100 of the 4000 Olympic vehicles are running on mixes of conventional fossil fuel and plant-derived biofuels.
Biofuel is far from the only potential solution for keeping up with our ever-growing energy demands, but BP says advances in crop and conversion technology mean that production of it is becoming more efficient. That in turn makes it more viable as a commercial product and brings the cost down for producers and consumers – in theory, at least.
That's with the proviso, of course, that not all cars are compatible with biofuel blends, and the lack of a decisive, all-encompassing European policy on the development of a biofuel market isn’t providing the sort of stability that major multinational companies like before they plough forward with product research.
Two of BP’s new three experimental fuels have a strong link with the UK, in that one can be produced here and the other is a blend of diesel, which would be of interest to plenty of our domestic car owners.
The diesel option, known as sugar-to-diesel (S2D), can deliver a carbon reduction of up to 60 per cent compared with regular fossil fuels. Some of the Olympic cars are running on a blend of S2D and pump BP diesel.
The second fuel is biobutanol, which is produced in Hull, where BP has set up a factory in conjunction with joint venture partner DuPont. It can be mixed with petrol at a much higher concentration than bioethanol and is already commercially available in countries such as France and Germany, where E10 bioethanol is permitted.
Under Europe’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), EU member nations will have to make sure that 10 per cent of the energy used by the vehicles on our roads comes from renewable sources by the end of this decade, and E10 is expected to finally reach here in 2013.
Biofuels currently account for about three per cent of the global fuel consumption, but BP’s estimates suggest that could rise to seven per cent by 2030. If that sounds like a modest rise, it is also an acknowledgement that biofuels will form one part of a multi-faceted solution.