March 13, 2024

WHITEPAPER DOWNLOAD: Mission Critical Biomass: The Growing Problem of Low Carbon Intensity Feedstock

Mission Critical Biomass - The Growing Problem of Low Carbon Intensity Feedstock Availability for Net Zero Ambitions

For more in depth analysis and discussion, please see NexantECA’s whitepaper on the same subject by clicking the button below, or email us at ContactUs@NexantECA.Com





Biomass-derived fuel feedstocks are of key importance to the ongoing transition of the global transport sector away from the dominant fossil-derived model of the last hundred years or more.  There are three main groups of biomass feedstocks, each relevant to different downstream products: 

Natural Oils: Originating from oilseed crops (virgin or waste) as well as from animal fats: used in the production of “conventional” (FAME) biodiesel and increasingly for newer ”drop-in” fuels via HVO processes, i.e. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Renewable Diesel, Renewable Naphtha, and Renewable LPG 

Starch/Sugar/Carbohydrates: Originating mainly from large-scale staple grain, grass sugarcane and tuber crop production; used mainly for fermentation to ‘first generation’ ethanol production for use as a gasoline blendstock, but with potential for use in Ethanol-to-Jet SAF production and as a feedstock for additional chemistry (e.g. dehydration to ethylene) 

Emerging Feedstocks: Currently led by cellulosic meterials such as agricultural wastes, but with significant additional potential from the wider waste sector; end-uses in second generation ethanol production, drop-in fuels, digestion to biogas for upgrading to biomethane as a transport fuel (bio CNG and bio LNG) and biomass gasification to methanol. 



The extent to which these issues weigh on the overall sector varies with the wide range of different products, feedstocks, locations and production methods encompassed by the biofeedstock/biofuel market: 

  • Scale impact:  Overall cultivation of feedstocks is dependent on land use, and sets a ceiling on production 
  • Price impact: The volatile nature of agricultural pricing impacts cost of production and profitability, with multiple factors external to biofuel consumption trends driving feedstock prices 
  • Sustainability/GHG impact:  Different approaches to feedstock production (agricultural, waste-related, etc.) translate to widely varying lifecycle emissions reduction potential for different biofuels, from carbon negative to higher than petroleum equivalents 
  • Regulatory impact:  Driven by the above and central to biofuels growth, regulatory incentives and disincentives on particular feedstocks can – and have in the past – either open up or close down entire markets. 

However, significant efforts to address them are underway across the biofuels and biofeedstock sectors, the success of which are likely to strongly influence the evolution of the market in the coming years.  

Key Takeaways 

  • Three key takeaways from NexantECA’s evaluation and assessment of this market space: 
  • Renewable Feedstocks will be exceptionally important to net zero ambitions 
  • Currently, first generation food-based feedstocks are the dominant supply  
  • First generation food-based feedstocks have relatively high carbon intensities 


Find out more...

Key NexantECA Insights Reports on the Subject 

NexantECA consultants have been consistently active in evaluating technoeconomic, Carbon Intensity and market developments in the renewable feedstocks space, particularly as it pertains to feedstocks for biofuels and biochemicals value chains.  Expressly related to this whitepaper, is the report series, Market Scenario Planning: Renewable Feedstock Availability to 2050 (2023), which this whitepaper summarizes.  In addition to significant bespoke consulting work in this area, NexantECA has also published the following related reports that may be of interest to readers: 

Technology and Costs 


Markets and Profitability 


The Author...

Steven Slome - Biorenewable Insights Manager




About Us - NexantECA, the Energy and Chemicals Advisory company is the leading advisor to the energy, refining, and chemical industries. Our clientele ranges from major oil and chemical companies, governments, investors, and financial institutions to regulators, development agencies, and law firms. Using a combination of business and technical expertise, with deep and broad understanding of markets, technologies and economics, NexantECA provides solutions that our clients have relied upon for over 50 years.


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