BioGrace - Harmonisation of GHG Calculations for biofuels

The EU-funded project BioGrace aimed to harmonise calculations of biofuel greenhouse gas emissions and thus supports the implementation of the EU Renewable Energy Directive into national laws.

In 2009 the European Union set sustainability criteria for biofuels with the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), which must be implemented in national laws by December 5th, 2010. According to this directive, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission savings from biofuels must be at least 35% compared to fossil fuels. The directive gives default values for GHG emission savings of 22 biofuel production pathways.

For economic operators who want or have to do the calculations themselves a methodology is laid out in the directive. This methodology prescribes that total greenhouse gas emissions are to be calculated as the sum of emissions from cultivation, processing and transportation of the biofuels. Yet the directive does not specify how the default values were obtained. In particular, it does not fix conversion factors, also called standard values, that have been used to determine the default values or should be used to make own calculations. As various different values can be found in literature, economic operators are free to pick the most beneficial ones. Calculations of the GHG emissions savings of the same shipment of biofuel may then vary between 10 and 20 per cent or even more, depending on the standard values used in the calculation.

The EU-funded project BioGrace makes biofuel GHG calculations transparent. The BioGrace consortium consists of eight European bioenergy organisations, which receive funding from Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme for a two-year period. Transparent calculations will enable auditors to verify calculations much more easily. Furthermore, it will help to create a level playing field for the European biofuels market. For this purpose, the BioGrace consortium has been contacting European policy makers to find the best way to include a list of standard values into the respective national legislations.

Besides a list of standard values, BioGrace has also developed an Excel greenhouse gas calculation tool, which is available on the project website. This tool allows the reproduction of the GHG emission default values of the 22 biofuel production pathways listed in the Renewable Energy Directive. Economic operators and other users are thus able to calculate actual values of biofuel greenhouse gas emissions according to the methodology laid out in the directive.

BioGrace has been co-operating with various organisations in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom responsible for developing user-friendly GHG calculators in these countries. Whereas the BioGrace Excel tool gives all details about the GHG calculations, the GHG calculators focus on assisting users to make their own calculations. The GHG calculators are designed to be “user-friendly” as economic operators may insert their individual input values into a preset template, which is adjusted to local production characteristics. Both the Excel tool and the GHG calculators are based on the same list of standard values.

In order to achieve harmonisation of GHG calculations for biofuels throughout the EU, special workshops aiming to inform and involve European policy makers will be held in November. Auditors, producers, certifiers and other stakeholders involved in the production and distribution of biofuels are invited to participate in one of the seven public workshops starting in January 2011, where the various products from the BioGrace project will be presented.

More information is available at the project website