Thursday, March 18, 2010

From Crop Seeds to Transporation Energy - the Rise of Biofuel in Romania

By Yacong Yuan

Edited by Alexandru Cristea

Biofuel production and use is one of the most innovative ways to fight against climate change. Generated from maize, rape and sunflower seeds, biofuel is a liquid derived from biomass, most often from plant materials, which is used for transportation. It has been generally considered a green energy more environmental friendly than the traditional fossil fuel.

“First generation biofuels can save up to 60 percent of carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels. And second generation biofuels saves up to 80 percent.” according to Life Cycle Analysis.

Based on the European Union directives, petrol and diesel sold in all state members must compose of 10 percent of bio components by the year 2010. As a member of EU, Romania is striving to keep up with the EU target.

“Romania targets to reach 5.75 percent of bio transportation energy by the end of 2010,” according to Mihail Dumitru, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Romania based in Bucharest.

“We have set our target since 2007 when we joined EU, to gradually increase the share of bio energy. In the past, we have successfully achieved our goal of 2 percent in 2008 and we managed to achieve 4 percent in 2009.”

The potential for biofuel production in Romania is huge.

“To reach the 10 percent target in 2020, we need to produce 650,000 tonnes of biofuel per year, which means 1.1 million hectares of energy crops are needed,” said the minister.

Despite biofuel’s advantages as a clean energy, some argue that the EU target of 10 percent of transportation biofuel will cause conflict between need for food and need for energy. According to Euractive, a media portal for EU affairs, “Millions of people could starve if member states deliver on the EU’s target of sourcing 10 percent of its transport fuel from biofuels as a way of tackling climate change, argues a new report from ActionAid, an NGO.”

However, that is not the concern for Romania, according to Dumitru.

"The impact of biofuel production is apparently a positive one on Romanian agriculture,” he said.

He pointed out mainly two reasons for that. First of all, Romania can make more use of potential arable lands by producing energy seeds.

“Before biofuel production, we have large portion of agricultural lands that has never been used out there. The production of biofuel has brought additional opportunities for Romanian agriculture. So the crops used for processing energy into biofuel is not really a competition against crop for food. We still have lots of potentials to produce more crops,” the minister indicated.

Secondly, “the by-product of protein from crushing the seeds during the processing of biofuel can be used to feed the animals,” was described by Dumitru as a “double-fold profit”.

In fact, the business of biofuel production has been growing rapidly in Romania.

“Right now, we have 22 licensed biodiesel processor, with a total of 250,000 tones processing capacity per year. We will also have two new processing plants in the southern part of the country producing bioethanol with a capacity of 150,000 tones per year soon to open. Emerging investment in the processing field is energetic,” said Dumitru.

Both favorable policies from the government and foreign investment helped to realize the prosperity of biofuel production in Romania.

According to Dumitru, in order to meet the EU standard, “government on both national and rural level support investment in farming and processing for biofuel energy; all kinds of renewable energies were given higher investment support. It’s a prior sector for investment.”

Additionally, Romania also used to receive subsidy package from EU to develop biofuel energy.

“EU used to subsidize €45 ($63.83) per hectare of energetic crops. Basically, they pay any farmer who cultivate energetic crops from EU budget,” Dumitru added.

Crops for energy include cereals, sugar beet and oil plants such as rapeseed.

In fact, the incentive to grow energy crops is so effective that Romania has largely exceeded the quota and doubled the cultivation area.

“In 2008, we have 150,000 hectares of energy crops to deliver 130,000 tones of biofuel.This year, we have to gave up the extension of this subsidy from EU because Romania has reached the initial quota. There is enough demand for the market. Now the production of processing capacity is much larger than the demand.” he said.

How about the future role Romania will play on EU biofuel market?

“We are already an exporter of biofuel on the EU market,” the minister said.

“In additional to biofuel, we also see a lot of potential on other green energy, such as biogas, and we also see huge potential on biomass. Although biofuel energy has been the fastest growing sector for biomass, the prospect is a shift in trend of biomass, which is much broader than just biofuel,” the minister added.

Photos courtesy of and

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