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March 07, 2013
New fuel pathways for RFS program

The EPA continues to approve new fuel pathways for inclusion in the national renewable fuel standard (RFS) program.  In the latest action, the Agency has issued a final rule that states that biofuels produced from camelina oil qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuels and biofuels from energy cane qualify as cellulosic biofuel.

The action also qualifies renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstock made from certain qualifying feedstocks as cellulosic biofuel.  In addition, the definition of “renewable diesel” is clarified to explicitly include jet fuel. 

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) states that fuels qualify under the RFS by meeting specific GHG emissions reduction targets over their lifecycles when compared to the lifecycle GHG emissions of the traditional fuels they replace.  Lifecycle GHG emissions are calculated for the fuel pathway— that is, the combination of feedstock and production process.  EISA requires a 20 percent reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions for renewable fuel produced at new facilities (those constructed after enactment), a 50 percent reduction for biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel, and a 60 percent reduction for cellulosic biofuel. The RFS program includes a process whereby parties may petition the EPA to conduct a lifecycle GHG assessment for a new fuel pathway and provide a determination for the RFS fuel category for which the new pathway may be eligible. 

Camelina and energy cane

The rule describes EPA’s analysis and determinations for the following new fuel pathways:

  • Camelina oil (new feedstock)
    • Biodiesel and renewable diesel (including jet fuel and heating oil)—qualifying as biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuel
    • Naphtha and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)—qualifying as advanced biofuel
  • Energy cane cellulosic biomass (new feedstock) 
    • Ethanol, renewable diesel (including renewable jet fuel and heating oil), and naphtha— qualifying as cellulosic biofuel
  • Renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstock (new fuel types)
    • Produced from crop residue, slash, precommercial thinnings, tree residue, annual cover crops, and cellulosic components of separated yard waste, separated food waste, and separated municipal solid waste (MSW)
    • Using the following processes—all using natural gas, biogas, and/or biomass as the only process energy sources— qualifying as cellulosic biofuel:
      • Thermochemical pyrolysis
      • Thermochemical gasification
      • Biochemical direct fermentation
      • Biochemical fermentation with catalytic upgrading
      • Any other process that uses biogas and/or biomass as the only process energy sources

    Renewable identification numbers

    Producers or importers of fuel produced under these pathways may generate renewable identification numbers (RINs) in accordance with the RFS regulations, provided the fuel meets other criteria for renewable fuel.  The RFS compliance program is based on the use of unique RINs assigned to batches of renewable fuel by renewable fuel producers and importers.  These RINs can be sold or traded and used by any obligated party to demonstrate compliance with the applicable standard.

    The final rule on additional fuel pathways that qualify under the RFS program was published in the March 5, 2013, FR.

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