US Study on Greenhouse Gas Balance of Soy Based Diesel with Inconsistencies

Berlin, August 3, 2010. A new US study on the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of soy-based diesel has been evaluated by Deutsches BiomasseForschungsZentrum (DBFZ). The study published by the United Soybean Board (USB) concludes that biodiesel produced from soy in the United States achieves a greenhouse gas reduction of 52 % based on defaults. The USB study is analyzed for conformity with European Directive 2009/28/EC both for the methodology applied and the database on which it relies. As a result, the DBFZ finds that even if the method by which the GHG balance is calculated complies with the requirements of the European Directive, the underlying data involves some uncertainties and as such should be looked at more closely.

One of the sustainability requirements of the European Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources provides that biofuels to be eligible for tax concession or consideration for the obligatory quota should provide at last 35 % greenhouse gas reduction in comparison with fossil fuel. The Directive defines a method for calculating the greenhouse gas reduction. Alternatively, the potential greenhouse gas reduction can also be calculated on the basis of defaults. The defaults, which are calculated on the basis of the method in the directive, are reviewed by the EU Commission in regular intervals to reflect new findings.

The default for soy biodiesel specified in the Directive is 31 % and as such fails to meet the minimum GHG reduction target of 35 %. So the United Soybean Board had a GHG balance calculated for the production of biodiesel from soy based on current national data applying the method of the EU Directive. The USB now demands that the EU default should be adjusted on the basis of these distinctly better results.

The evaluation of the database by the DBFZ revealed partly substantial differences between the database on which the USB study relies and the background data of the European Directive default for the soy cultivation, raw oil and biodiesel production processes. Even if the assumptions and general conditions for the calculation method applied by the USB study are exactly those required by the European Directive, the DBFZ found inconsistencies in the underlying data that require closer examination.