Diversion of Crude Tall Oil (CTO) as a biofuel feedstock

Biofuel production has long been shrouded with controversy, especially over the appropriateness of its feedstock. One ongoing debate is the usage of edible crops as feedstock that has resulted in unintended consequences such as a rise in food prices. One solution proposed by many is the use of wood-based biomass as biofuel feedstock. However, this approach too creates unintended consequences in many bio-based industries.
One such bio-based industry affected in the pine chemical industry, which is reliant on Crude Tall Oil. It is a sustainable resource that is dependent on the production volume of the paper pulping industry. CTO can be processed and distilled to obtain pine chemicals such as Tall Oil Fatty Acids and Tall Oil Pitch. It is a vibrant industry that has been adding value to society by producing many innovative consumer products and key to achieving a successful bio-economy.  However, in recent years, the industry is under risk due the change in policies by governments and transnational bodies like the EU. The EU has drafted a framework promoting the efficiency usage of biomass for increased greenhouse savings. Under the framework, CTO is subjected for biofuels development because of its identification as residue in many EU nations. EU members incentivized the development with the belief that the CTO as biofuel feedstock will substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fossil fuel usage.
However, these assumptions were proved to be flawed in recent independent certified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of GHG emissions of pine chemicals compared to biofuel. Here are the some of the key findings:

  • The carbon footprint for weighted global pine chemicals is found to be approximately 50.7% lower than substitute products in end applications. Pine chemicals produce a global average of 1,331 kg CO2 equivalent per ton while its substitutes produce 2,698 kg CO2 equivalent per ton.
  • Pine chemical substitutes with notably higher carbon footprint include hydrocarbon resin and fuel. For soybean and its associated pine chemical, there is not a significant difference between their global average carbon footprints.
  • Results showed that there is no carbon or energy footprint benefit gain from the diversion of CTO to a biofuel feedstock, which is currently practiced in Europe.
  • Fossil fuel used in the manufacturing of pine chemical substitutes significantly offset the reduction gain from using CTO as a biofuel.

From the study, it demonstrates that it may not be a good suggestion to incentivize Crude Tall Oil as biofuel feedstock as there are no tangible environmental benefits. In addition, the diversion not only places huge amounts of capitals at risk but also hurt innovation and destroys jobs.
Meanwhile, if you have any queries over pine products, do drop us a mail at contact@chemtradeasia.com or visit us at pine-chemicals.com
By: Wen Hao

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