Improving the sustainability of fatty acid methyl esters (Fame – biodiesel) – assessment of options for industry and agriculture

G. Jungmeier, J. Pucker, M. Ernst, P. Haselbacher, J.P. Lesschen, A. Kraft, T. Schulzke, E.N. van Loo

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic

1 Citation (Scopus)


The life cycle based greenhouse gas (GHG) balances of Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME also called “Biodiesel”) from various resources have been set in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Due to technology and scientific progress there are various options to improve the GHG balances of FAME. In this Supporting Action 10 most interesting options were assessed: 1) “Biomethanol”: Substitution of fossil methanol with biomethanol; 2) “Bioethanol”: Substitution of fossil methanol with bioethanol; 3) “CHP residues”: Use of residues and co-products in an CHP plant; 4) “New plant species”: Examination of new plants for vegetable oils, that could increase the biomass weight without any detrimental effect on the oil seed; 5) “Bioplastics and biochemicals”: Production of bioplastics and biochemicals from process residues; 6) “Advanced agriculture”: Advanced agricultural practices in terms of N2O emissions and soil carbon accumulation; 7) “Organic residues”: Use of organic versus mineral fertilizer for feedstock cultivation; 8) “FAME as fuel”: Use of FAME in machinery for cultivation, transportation and distribution; 9) “Retrofitting multi feedstock”: Retrofitting of single feedstock plants for blending fatty residues; and 10) “Green electricity”: Use of renewable electricity produced in a PV plant on site. The assessment approach started with the GHG standard values of the RED and the corresponding background data documented in BioGrace. For the most relevant FAME production possibilities in Europe, characterized by the feedstock (rapeseed, sunflower, palm oil, soybean, used cooking oil, animal fat) and FAME production capacity (50 - 200 kt/a), the technical and economic data of “Best Available Technology in 2015” (BAT) were used as starting point to assess the improvement options. Based on the calculation of GHG emissions (g CO2-eq/MJ) and production cost (€/tFAME) an overall assessment (incl SWOT-Analyses and Stakeholder involvement) of the options was made and summarized in “Fact Sheets”. A significant GHG reduction compared to the RED values in processing is possible, if best available technology (BAT) is applied. The GHG emissions of cultivation compared to RED are higher due to improved data on the correlation between fertilizer input and yields. The assessed GHG improvements options show that the potential to reduce emissions is relatively large in agriculture cultivation, but a relatively low in processing. The production cost analysis shows that revenues from co-produced animal feed and oil yield per hectare have a strong influence on total production costs, e.g. mainly animal feed from soybeans. The total FAME production cost of BAT are 280 – 1,000 €/tFAME, including revenues from co-products. Cost ranges arise due to different feedstock and capacities. The greenhouse gas analysis of the improvement options results in a GHG reduction potential of 0 - 37 g CO2-eq/MJ compared to BAT. The greenhouse gas mitigation costs of improvement options range between -260 and +1,000 €/t CO2-eq. Options with negative greenhouse gas mitigation costs generate economic benefits compared to the base case. Summing up the assessment one can conclude that the future FAME production has several options to further improve its GHG balance thus contributing substantially to a more sustainable transportation sector.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventEUBCE 2016: 24th European Biomass Conference and Exibition - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 6 Jun 20169 Jun 2016


ConferenceEUBCE 2016


  • Biodiesel
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Sustainability
  • SWOT analyses
  • Vegetable oils


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