Technical/Cost Analysis of Biofuels Options


Julie Witcover 

Additional Researchers

Lew Fulton 


Despite extensive research, there remains significant uncertainty related to biofuels parameters such as production potentials by source region, production costs, and GHG impacts.  This is especially true for advanced (waste and cellulose-derived) biofuels. We would use the latest information in the literature to evaluate a future scenario for California, where a large volume of advanced biofuels is used to help meet 2030 LCFS and broader 2050 CO2e emission reduction targets. What volumes will be needed by when? How much might be sourced within CA and the US?  How much might come from waste streams vs dedicated crops? We may use the “ZEV+Biofuels” transition scenario developed this year as a foundation for the quantities needed, but could consider a range of sensitivity cases.  This work will build on our 2018 analysis of advanced biofuel cost and our 2017 analysis of potential diesel-replacement biofuels, including biodiesel and advanced diesel/ethanol concepts. This study will add additional emerging fuels such as RNG and pyrolysis-to-drop-in fuels. It may look at DME and ethanol for diesel engine vehicles.  

The study will draw extensively on the literature, including other production and cost scenarios for advanced biofuels in the future. It will also involve producing some simplified quantitative scenarios of our own that link volumes of specific fuels to costs (looking at available information on cost curves and technology learning), and to feedstocks for specific volumes on a geographic basis (again drawing on currently available information). This will not be a detailed modeling exercise but will provide enough quantification to illustrate the nature of potential linkages between assumed costs, volumes and sourcing in the 2030 to 2050 time frame. 

Results from this analysis will be published and incorporated into our transportation scenarios. An extension (if resources permit) will be to link this to LCFS targets and potential impacts on future fuels.