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FAQ

 Here you can find the answers to frequently asked questions.
 

• Biofuels, biodiesel, vegetable oil fuel – is it not all the same thing?

Vegetable oil fuel is the oldest form of biofuel there is and is produced through pressing and filtration. After an additional processing stage, esterification, vegetable oil and methanol can be used to produce “biodiesel” or rapeseed oil methylester (RME). This requires additional energy, however, and the performance in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is therefore worse (38%) than for vegetable oil fuel (57 %) by comparison. However, this product can also be manufactured from local rapeseed oil and can thus contribute to increasing value creation in the region.

 

• How is vegetable oil manufactured?

Just a few, technically very simple steps are all that is required to manufacture cold-pressed vegetable oil decentrally. After harvesting, the seed is cleaned, dried and pressed in decentralised oil mills. Then the extracted vegetable oil goes through filtration and the press residues – the high-protein oil cake – is collected by the farmers again for use as highly valued animal feed.
Worldwide there are many thousands of oil plants that could theoretically be used as fuel. Currently, however, it is the use of rapeseed oil as a fuel that has been subject to the most research and testing. The quality requirements rapeseed oil has to meet are governed by DIN 51605.
Combustion engines can only be powered reliably if important properties and ingredients of the fuel are defined. These can only fluctuate within defined limits, otherwise no guarantees can be given that the engine will run safely or that certain emission limits can be adhered to. Rapeseed processing therefore has to be as gentle as possible so as to prevent undesired lipoids getting into the oil as far as possible. You can find detailed information on the technical process steps for decentralised oil extraction at: www.tfz.bayern.de


• What is meant by the “extra field of oats principle”?

Ever since humans began to settle and farm their first land, one thing has been clear: agriculture requires energy – in whatever form it might be. First of all this energy was provided by human labour, then later by the use of draught animals and since industrialisation by the use of technology. Whilst energy was provided in the form of people’s own elbow grease and with the help of draught animals, for many centuries it was essential to always make sure a certain amount of land was set aside to supply the humans and animals with food and feed – the “extra field of oats principle” (in German the "Haferprinzip"). Because without food and feed neither humans nor animals can work.
Since technologisation, this link no longer seems to be evident, as fuel comes from “oil fields” deep under the soil. But this energy also has to be processed first of all – requiring a great deal of technology and power – before it can finally be used locally in agricultural machinery. This is far more than is required for energy produced above ground in line with the "extra field of oats principle" and furthermore it is linked to global economic cycles which the farmer has no influence whatsoever over.
The “food/feed/fuel” project is therefore designed to ensure the energy required to work the fields is supplied regionally again and with it a high level of security of supply – independently of the world markets.

 

• Is there enough land available nationally and internationally for a turnaround in mobility?

Of course there is not enough farming land available either nationally or international for biofuels to solve the problem of future mobility. The idea behind the project relates solely to a niche market that could immediately be switched to vegetable oil power without competing for land with food production.
The “food/feed/fuel” project cannot solve the global problems of the world’s population but can be a regional solution both nationally and internationally for ensuring security of supply for agricultural production and thus for our food supply.


• What about the sustainability of biofuels? What is “iLUC”?

One important realisation in the debate on biofuels over the last few years has been that it is not just about the volume produced. What is far more important is that this volume can also be grown sustainably and accomodating ecological considerations.
This is why in addition to purely quantitative targets the European Union has also set sustainability targets, especially in connection with the desired CO2 reduction. The idea is to prevent the advantages being cancelled out by the side effects of biofuel cultivation and production. One key aspect here is the agricultural land required for this – if the aim is to replace a considerable share of the world’s fuel needs with renewable fuels, large cultivation areas will be required worldwide. Against the backdrop of the growing world population with the growing demand for food, raw materials and energy this is a huge challenge. For fuel production, two land use concepts are therefore possible:
Direct land use change: here land is used for biofuel cultivation on which no agriculture has taken place previously (peat bogs, forests, rain forests, wasteland, etc.) The ecological side effects here are often so great that this type of change in the use of land is not politically accepted. For instance, the CO2 emissions from converting forestland into farming land are often so great that even CO2 savings over many years from the use of biofuels can scarcely cancel them out. The EU has created rules within the Sustainability Directive to prevent such effects. Biofuels grown on this type of land are not recognised in the EU.

Indirect land use change (iLUC): this effect occurs when biofuels are cultivated on farming land that is already in use, on which food crops were previously grown. This form of biofuel production is permitted but faces criticism. Either it means land is taken away from global food farming, which it urgently needs, or food farming has to move to other previously unused land (see above). As food farming is not subject to the same sustainability requirements that biofuel cultivation is, this is initially allowed – but leads to the same undesired side effects as with direct land use change. For years, the EU has been debating introducing a so-called iLUC factor in judging the CO2 performance of biofuels. In addition to the amount of CO2 emitted for cultivation, processing and transport of biofuels, the idea is to introduce an additional CO2 factor to account for the change in land use. As we are talking about an indirect effect, the debate amongst scientists, lobbyists and policy makers is very controversial – and to date has yet to produce results.

 

• Food or fuel? Are people in the third world starving just so that we can be mobile?

It is precisely this debate that we are endeavouring to de-escalate with the “food/feed/fuel” concept because the approach with this idea relates equally to the countries of the third world and highly industrialised countries. After all oil crops are just as varied as humankind itself. With decentralised production and processing in simplified mechanical steps, vegetable oil could be extracted in developing countries as well and used for a variety of purposes (for food, as fuel to power farming regionally, for the production of energy etc.). The aim of the project is first and foremost to strengthen regional security of supply and thus to increase independence from fossil fuels.
We absolutely reject the idea that agriculturally produced biofuels could come anywhere close to meeting fuel needs at today’s levels without compromising the production of food.

 

• Does vegetable oil fuel harm the climate? What GHG values does vegetable oil produce and what about the ILUC factor?

Vegetable oil fuel reduces GHG values by 57% (Standard Default Value EU
2008_28_EC Directive). As regionally produced vegetable oil for use in tractors is a product similar to the extra field of oats principle, debating an ILUC factor is not relevant. Who would attach an ILUC factor to the land needed to provide a horse or an ox with feed for arable farming?

 

• Is use in agricultural equipment technologically feasible?

The use of vegetable oil fuels is technologically possible without problems. This has been proven inter alia by the results of the study conducted by the EU project 2ndvegoil, which involved three years of tests and clearly confirmed the feasibility of the use of vegetable oil. Unfortunately the demand for this manufacturer-based technology is currently low due to the general political conditions and the market is having problems getting off the ground as a result.


• How do I tell whether a tractor can be run reliably on vegetable oil?

Running tractors on vegetable oil is most reliable if the engine technology is supplied directly by the tractor manufacturer. This ensures that fully developed technology, professional service and in the worst-case scenario the usual warranty processing are all provided by one company. John Deere, Deutz-Fahr and Fendt have already shown that such products can be developed and commercialised. It is not a lack of engine technology that is stopping broad-based use but “just” the lacking economic viability.
Retrofitting by small workshop and development businesses still makes sense for limited periods of transition at the moment, until there are sufficient mass products on offer from manufacturers.

 

• Are the emissions from vegetable oil fuels carcinogenic?

In engines specially adapted for the use of vegetable oil fuel there are no carcinogenic emissions. Vegetable oil admixtures in mass-produced diesel engines should be viewed critically as combustion does not take place fully and substances that are hazardous to health can arise from the emissions.

 

• What costs do farmers incur when using vegetable oil fuel?

The increased costs the farmer incurs are due to having to purchase a tractor suitable for vegetable oil use. The fuel itself is cheaper than diesel, as the farmer (for instance in Germany) is reimbursed for mineral oil tax.
The production costs of the vegetable oil fuel comprise cultivation, harvesting, contract pressing and transport from/to the oil mill and are relatively stable. The farmer can also save money when producing other agricultural products by using self-produced fuel and thus amortise the costs of acquiring the vegetable oil tractor.

 

• How can we persuade farmers to switch to sustainable energy concepts?

To persuade farmers to switch to sustainable energy concepts, using vegetable oil fuel has to be economically interesting – in the long term. This has to be ensured first of all by the long-term political framework conditions and second by reliable, manufacturer-based vegetable oil technology.


• Which laws govern the use of biofuels?

Inside the European Union a lot of the framework conditions for the use of biofuels are set forth in EU Directives. These are adopted in Brussels and are binding for all EU Member States. They usually have to be transposed into national law by the Member States by certain deadlines.
The sustainability of biofuels is laid down in Directive 2009/28/EC (referred to as the Sustainability Directive). This directive describes the aims and objectives pursued and the articles set forth the definitions, legal procedures and measures through which these aims are to be attained. Annex V of this directive, for instance, sets forth the default values for potential CO2 savings for current biofuels. It describes a 57 % CO2 saving for rapeseed oil, for instance. Currently, there is still an on-going debate on the so-called iLUC factor, which is expected to have a considerable impact on the CO2 savings made through biofuels.
The EU project biograce was set up to put the directive into practice. This project fine-tunes and further standardises the source data and calculating procedures for the CO2 savings.
Further provisions for market introduction, sustainability and fuel qualities are contained in the EU Directive 2009/30/EC (Biofuel Directive). This directive lays down the medium-term % targets for the introduction of biofuels inside the EU. To ensure sustainability, its content is closely related to the Sustainability Directive (2009/28/EC). The directive also contains provisions on the changed fuel quality (and standardisation issues) in Europe, which is already being caused by the adding of small quantities of bioethanol and biodiesel. There are also provisions for consumer information about the changes of fuel properties and quality.
The Energy Tax Directive (2003/96/EC) governs the minimum tax rates on all energy products for the European Single Market. A reform of this directive is currently being drafted. In the future, there are to be new provisions inter alia for the reference base for taxation (for instance energy content instead of volumes). Furthermore, the exemptions (for instance for heating oil etc.) are to be reduced. The type and level of taxation of fossil and renewable energy sources are also to be harmonised – if possible including an appropriate CO2 tax, which should benefit climate-friendlier energy options.

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