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UK Farming Statistics

30 January 2013

UK Farming Statistics: Area of Crops Grown For Bioenergy in England and the UK : 2008-2011UK Farming Statistics: Area of Crops Grown For Bioenergy in England and the UK : 2008-2011

UK Farming Statistics


Blended in small quantities with fossil fuels, bioethanol (used in petrol) and biodiesel (used in diesel) can be used in today?s road vehicles. These biofuels play an important role in the UK plan to meet the target set in the European Renewable Energy Directive 2009 (EU Directive 2009/28/EC for 10% of final energy consumption in the transport sector to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020. However the Government has proposed to amend the target from 5% to around 4.7% for 2013/14 and subsequent years but this is subject to legislation and the parliamentary process (footnote to table on page 5 : The use of biofuels also supports three Government objectives to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, improve security of energy supply and rural development.

Key Facts

Just over 1.3 million tonnes of UK grown crops were used for biofuel production supplied primarily to the UK road transport market in 2010/11, but also includes bioethanol from wheat supplied to other markets and/or exports. This equates to around 97 thousand hectares of crops (1.7% of the total UK arable area). It comprises 1% of the UK oilseed rape area, 11% of the sugar beet area and 4% of the UK wheat area in 2010.

In 2010/11 figures for biofuel production show a large increase (83%) from the 2009/10 estimate of 0.7 thousand tonnes on to 27 thousand hectares but overall in 2010/11 this accounted for just 1.7 per cent of the UK total arable area. The main drivers behind this increase were a much larger volume of wheat used for bioethanol in 2010/11 (581 thousand tonnes compared to 3 thousand tonnes in 2009/10) following the opening of the first bioethanol plant in the UK. The increased use of wheat was slightly counteracted by a 54% decrease in the tonnage of oilseed rape used for biodiesel (28 thousand tonnes compared to 60 thousand tonnes in 2009/10).

Overview of Data Sources and Methodology

The June Survey of Agriculture and Horticulture is an annual survey which collects information from farmers on the area of crops grown in the UK as at the 1 June each year. In the past, attempts have been made to ask farmers to report separately the area of crops grown for different purposes eg food, feed bioenergy but this has not proved successful because farmers do not always know the end use, especially at the time the survey is run. It can be used more reliably for crops where there is one primary end use.

For crops such as oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet, where there are multiple end uses, reference has been made to other existing data sources on usage in order to try and establish the crop production and area associated with crops grown for bioenergy by applying appropriate conversion factors to the data collected on biofuel production. It should be noted that none of the sources used have been set up specifically for the purpose of establishing crop areas used for bioenergy so there are some limitations in the data which are outlined in each section. An outline of the two main data sources are given below with more detailed information given in Annex B.

1.1 Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation data collected by the Department for Transport.The purpose is to collect information on the volume of biofuel supplied to the UK road transport market. It includes a breakdown of information by fuel type (e.g biodiesel, bioethanol) and by feedstock used (e.g, oilseed rape, used cooking oil, sugar beet) and the country of origin of the feedstock. This provides information on the volume of biofuel supplied to the UK road transport market produced from UK grown oilseed rape, sugar beet and wheat. By applying relevant conversion factors, it is possible to derive the equivalent UK crop tonnages used and UK crop areas.

Data are supplied by obligated companies that supply more than 450,000 litres of road transport fuel in a given year. These obligated companies supply more than 95% of the biofuels in the UK market. The main limitation of the data is that it does not include UK crops or biofuel produced from UK crops which may be exported and used outside the UK. In the case of sugar beet, very little (if any) bioethanol produced from the UK crop is exported; this is not the case for oilseed rape or wheat.

1.2 Liquid Biofuels Survey data collected by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The purpose of this survey is to determine UK production of biofuels. The published report also includes information on the amount of biofuel supplied to the UK road market and the percent of biofuel from UK sources. It does not report a detailed breakdown of information by the type or origin of the feedstock used. However it is useful to compare the data from this survey with that reported under the RTFO as described in Section 1.1.

UK Grown Crops used for the Production Biofuels

Table 2 summarises the UK sourced biofuels reported under the RTFO (i.e. the biofuels supplied to the UK road transport market sourced from UK feedstocks). Crops and by-products have both been included to show how the type of feedstock has changed each year.

Table 2: Volume of UK Sourced Biofuels Supplied to the UK Road Transport Market for 2008/9 to 2010/11, Split by Crop Type and by-products (Years Relate to April – March)

(a) Biodiesel and bioethanol volumes are reported in litres and biogas volumes are reported in kilograms.
(b) MSW= Municipal Solid Waste.

The decrease in volume of home grown oilseed rape used in 2010/11 and the large increase seen in the volumes of used cooking oil may be explained by the change in duty which came into force on 1 April 2010. From this date, the duty payable on biodiesel and bioethanol was increased by 20 pence/litre to equal that for diesel/petrol whilst biodiesel made from used cooking oil continued to benefit from the 20p duty differential until April 2012, via a relief scheme.

The very large increase in wheat usage in 2010/11 was due to the opening of a large, new bioethanol plant in the UK which has capacity to produce over 400 million litres of bioethanol a year from over one million tonnes of feed wheat. The plant began production in 2010 but then closed temporarily in May 2011 due to market conditions. The plant restarted production in autumn 2012 with a second plant expected to begin production early in 2013.

The tables below focus on the arable crops used as feedstocks and translate the biofuel volumes reported under the RTFO into equivalent UK crop areas. These crop areas are only based on biofuel from UK grown crops sold into the UK road fuel market. Additional account has been taken of UK wheat which has been used to produce bioethanol for markets other than UK road transport through reference to the DECC Liquid Biofuels Survey. The summary table is followed by detailed information for individual crops.

Table 3: Total UK Crop Areas (Oilseed Rape, Sugar Beet and Wheat) used for Biofuels (Biodiesel and Bioethanol) 2008-2011

(a) Based on conversions from Department for Transport commissioned research. Details provided in the following tables.
(b) UK arable area is defined as the area of arable crops, uncropped arable land and temporary grassland as at June in year n-1. Source: June Surveys of Agriculture, available at:
(c) This includes an estimated 92 million tonnes of bioethanol produced from wheat used for markets other than for UK Road Transport.

Oilseed Rape (for Biodiesel)

The crop areas presented here include only biodiesel from UK grown crops sold into the UK road fuel market. Any other UK grown crops which are processed into biofuels and then exported (and not re imported) are not included so this would lead to an element of under-recording. However it is not possible to quantify this potential under recording because HMRC trade data and DECC results from the Liquid Biofuels survey do not differentiate between the different biodiesel feedstocks.

Table 4: UK Oilseed Rape Areas used for Biodiesel 2008-2011

(a) Previously cropped land is the use of the land prior to 1 Jan 2008.
(b) Conversion: 526 litres biodiesel = 1 tonne oilseed rape (at 9% moisture) Source: Department for Transport commissioned research.
(c) Source: Defra annual Oilseed Rape Production Survey. UK yield at year n-1
(d) Source: Defra June Survey of Agriculture. UK area at year n-1

Sugar Beet (for Bioethanol)

Production of sugar from beet in the UK is governed by EU regulations, collectively known as the EU sugar regime. In 2006 there was substantial reform of the EU sugar regime, aimed at reducing EU sugar production to more sustainable levels. Key changes included reductions in beet sugar production quotas and changes in the rules applying to any sugar made in excess of the quotas. British Sugar are the sole quota holder in the UK and the reforms led to significant restructuring of their business, with closure of the Allscott and York factories after the 2006/07 campaign and contract tonnage re-allocated to growers closer to the remaining four factories. Furthermore, the UK?s first bioethanol plant was constructed at the Wissington factory. Opening in November 2007, it provides an outlet for sugar beet produced above the quota. For 2008/9, 2009/10, and 2010/11 the quota has been 1,056,474 tonnes of sugar (equivalent to around 6 million tonnes of sugar beet). Sugar produced from excess beet would probably previously have been exported to the world market, but these exports are no longer routinely permitted under the reformed regime. Sugar for biofuel, chemical and pharmaceutical industries is excluded from quota.

Data reported under the RTFO have been used to estimate the equivalent tonnage and crop area of sugar beet grown above the quota and diverted to produce bioethanol as reported in Table 5. Very little (if any) bioethanol produced from UK grown sugar beet is exported. Therefore, the areas below give a good indication of the total UK area of sugar beet used for bioethanol production.

Sugar beet yields have tended to increase year on year, but were lower than usual in 2010 due to adverse weather conditions where frosts in January followed mild weather, causing the beet to rot in the ground leading to major losses. Generally yields have been increasing so the decrease in 2010 is an exception.

Table 5: UK Sugar Beet Areas used for Bioethanol 2008-2011

(a) All sugar beet volumes above were grown on previously cropped land.
(b) Conversion: 95 litres bioethanol = 1 tonne sugar beet Source: Department for Transport commissioned research.
(c) Source: British Sugar figures supplied to Defra for the “Agriculture in the UK” annual publication. UK yield at year n-1.
(d) Source: June Survey of Agriculture. UK area at year n-1.

Wheat (for Bioethanol)

As with oilseed rape, any UK grown wheat locally processed into bioethanol then exported (and not re-imported) is not included in the RTFO figures. However for wheat, it is possible to derive an estimate of the amount of bioethanol locally produced, then used in other markets/exported by comparing the RTFO figures to the results from the DECC Liquid Biofuels survey, which is described in Section 1.1 and Annex B. In 2010 it was reported that around 52 per cent of the UK bioethanol produced from UK wheat, went into markets other than the UK road transport market.

Table 6: Estimated 2010 UK Wheat Area used for Producing Bioethanol which is used for Markets Other than UK Road Transport and/or Exported

(a) As very little bioethanol from sugar beet is exported, the assumption is made that this is all from wheat.

Using this information, Table 7 shows the RTFO figures converted into crop areas, along with this extra estimate of bioethanol in 2010 which was used in markets other than UK road fuel and/or exported.

Table 7: UK Wheat Areas used to Produce Bioethanol 2008-2011

(a) All wheat volumes above were grown on previously cropped land.
(b) Conversion: 365 litres bioethanol = 1 tonne wheat grain (at 15% moisture) Source: Department for Transport commissioned research.
(c) Source: Defra annual Cereal Production Survey. UK yield at year n-1.
(d) Source: Defra June Survey of Agriculture. UK area at year n-1.

January 2013

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