Country-level assessment of long-term global bioenergy potential

Published: 12/03/2015

Most long-term global energy scenarios rely on biomass for a variety of possible uses, but there is unlikely to be enough to replace the majority of fossil fuel use in all sectors. Improving the understanding of the sustainable and realistic potential for biomass is crucial.

This study, written by Ecofys for Shell’s Scenario team, presents a comprehensive, country-based, bottom-up assessment of the land-based global biofuel (bioethanol and biodiesel) potential. It takes into account a range of assumptions with varying crop yield improvements, land-use change and technology development, covering energy from both lignocellulosic and food crops as well as residues from agriculture and forestry. Going beyond many other studies, it contains an analysis of the potential for food crop based biofuels in addition to lignocellulosic-sourced biofuels, and tries to assess realistically achievable, rather than full technical, potentials. The bioenergy potential is located on abandoned or marginal land only, without converting natural forests to energy cropland or using land required for food production.

The study finds a global biofuel supply potential increasing from 15–70 EJ final transport fuel energy (30–140 EJ primary energy) currently to 40–190 EJ (130–400 EJ primary energy) in 2070, depending on the development of land-use, productivity and technology mix. Over three quarters of this potential comes from energy crops: up to 70% could come from food type bioenergy crops and at least 10% from lignocellulosic bioenergy crops. The remaining quarter would be from agricultural and forestry residues. The results are sensitive to input assumptions, most notably the land availability assumptions and the crop yield improvement rates, especially in developing countries.

See also our analysis of the global wind and solar electricity supply.
Find additional insights at Shell’s future energy scenarios.

Find the full scientific paper also online at Elsevier.

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Yvonne Deng
Climate Strategies and Policies
Michèle Koper
Sustainable Industries and Services