Understanding the Sustainable Aviation Biofuel Feedstock Potential in sub-Saharan Africa

Bole-Rentel, T., Fischer, G., Tramberend, S. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7024-1075, & van Velthuizen, H. (2019). Understanding the Sustainable Aviation Biofuel Feedstock Potential in sub-Saharan Africa. World Wildlife Fund

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The WWF-SA and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) were collectively undertaking a project to support the development of sustainable aviation biofuels in South Africa and the sub-Saharan Africa region. The IIASA/FAO Global Agro-Ecological Zones (GAEZ) modelling system was applied for the estimation of the production potential of bio-energy feedstocks across Sub-Saharan Africa. GAEZ together with IIASA’s World Food System (WFS) are the main components of the ecological-economic modelling framework that connects biophysical and socio-economic processes on a global scale. It was used to analyze two development scenarios to estimate the sustainable biofuel potentials that are compatible with long-term food security and environmental integrity.
The study applies sustainability criteria developed by the RSB. They include land use and conservation (no deforestation, preserve protected areas and areas of high environmental value), food security (retain adequate land for food production), greenhouse gas emission savings (minimum of 60% savings compared to fossil fuels when using a 20-year accounting period), and water security (only rain-fed biofuel production considered).
Land reserves in sub-Saharan Africa compliant with the land-related RSB principles (termed REMAIN land) indicate the availability and productivity for biofuel feedstocks of some 1.9 million km2 grass- and shrubland. The greenhouse gas saving criteria set by the RSB implies that almost exclusively perennial biofuel feedstocks, requiring less frequent and less intensive cultivation of soils, can meet those criteria when conversion of natural grassland or shrub land is involved. Considering all 11 biofuel feedstocks evaluated in this study and selection of the best feedstock in energy terms when multiple feedstock production is agronomically viable, 0.8 million km2 are agro-ecologically very suitable (prime land) or suitable (good land) for biofuel feedstock production. The technical biofuel potential of these areas amount to 7.1 thousand PJ of biofuels (lower heating value equivalent). The majority of this biofuel ‘umbrella’ stems from miscanthus (52%), followed by oil-palm (18%), and sugarcane (13%).
In the future, the estimated biofuel potentials of the available REMAIN land will likely be significantly reduced. Depending on scenario, by 2050, a reduction in the order of 20% is due to land conversion for food production needed in response to future demographic changes and improved diets due to the expected economic development process and income growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The land suitability and yield impacts of climate change will further reduce potential biofuel production by about 10-15%, especially when the potential is based only on perennial crops as a consequence of imposing a strict GHG criterion for soil carbon recuperation. The estimated biofuel potential on prime and good land compliant with the RSB sustainability criteria in 2050 amounts to 3.0– 4.0 thousand PJ.
Results show a small but not insignificant potential for the production of sustainable biofuels in sub-Saharan Africa. It could be prioritized for the aviation industry, which has limited other options when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.
This report represents a summary report that is based on the technical report titled “Sustainable aviation biofuel feedstock potential in sub-Saharan Africa: A systems analysis investigation into the current and future potential for biofuel feedstock production in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Item Type: Other
Research Programs: Water (WAT)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2019 10:51
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:31
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/15708

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