Biomethanol is a poor contributor to improving the GHG balance of biodiesel

Outcome of the DBFZ brief study on ecological and economic evaluation

Depending on the production method and the inputs, the substitution of natural gas-based methanol by biomethanol can save only approximately 2% to 3% of the total emissions from biodiesel production. However, as the price of methanol is higher, this GHG saving is obtained at the expense of 6% to 7% higher costs of biodiesel production. This is the outcome of a brief study undertaken by Deutsches BiomasseForschungsZentrum (DBFZ) for Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (UFOP).

The study looks at possible advantages and drawbacks of biomethanol as alternative to fossil-based methanol in the production of biodiesel. DBFZ also calculated the production costs of biomethanol for different pathways of biomass provision along different pathways and also the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relating to the production of biomethanol. These were compared with the conventional production of methanol from natural gas.

To the regret of UFOP, these results show that biomethanol for the esterification of vegetable oil to biodiesel helps save GHG emission only under certain conditions. Looking at the present price levels, this makes the use of biomethanol for fossil methanol meaningful only if the general statutory framework is such that the GHG emissions from fuel have a stronger effect on the price of biofuel or are tied up with these.