Germany poised to enter world biofuels market

Nation's biodiesel market is virtually unlimited, ethanol picking up pace
By Mike Bryan, President BBI International | November 01, 2002
Diesel cars have always been a major transportation component in Germany, but more recently many of these cars are being powered by biodiesel. More and more biodiesel production facilities are being built and the market is virtually unlimited. Current biodiesel production capacity in Germany is about 800,000 metric tonnes and growing, but the annual diesel fuel demand is 27 million metric tonnes.

Most of the current production comes from canola oil, but there is a growing interest in waste greases and animal renderings. Not every biodiesel producer has refining capabilities, some purchase refined oil and convert it to biodiesel. While there are advantages to both, having the capability to refine a variety of crude oils provides extra flexibility in the types of oils that can be utilized and often can result in lower feedstock costs.

The primary coproduct, glycerin, remains in high demand and, therefore, is an important contributor to the profitability of the plant. In addition, the federal subsidies for renewable diesel play a large part in the success of the program and, in fact, have made biodiesel less expensive than traditional diesel fuel.

On another front, the ethanol industry in Germany is ready to roll as soon as future producers have some degree of certainty that imports from Brazilian ethanol made from sugarcane will not flood the market. Two companies that already have plans completed for ethanol production are Nordzucker (North Sugar) and Suedzucker (South Sugar). Each has several beet sugar facilities. Nordzucker has plans for an 80 million gallon per year ethanol production facility, adjacent to their state-of-the-art sugar factory in Klein Wansleben. Suedzucker has plans for two 40 million gallon per year ethanol plants adjacent to two of their sugar factories in eastern Germany.

"It is almost a certainty that we will build," said Klaus-Holger Dunker of Nordzucker. "All we are waiting for is the government to act. We expect that action very soon. When that happens, all plans are in place to begin construction immediately."

The primary feedstock for ethanol production in Germany will be beet molasses and barley, some raw sugar and eventually, as the technology evolves, the processing of beet-pulp into ethanol. For now, however, the focus is using the available sugars and adding value to the German beet farmer's bottom line.