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Bioethanol takes spotlight at Green Fuels forum

July 11, 2023 - 15:29 By Yu Ji-soo
Participants of the 2023 International Green Fuels Symposium pose for a photo at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul in Jongno-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday. (Korea Automobile Journalists Association)

Some 200 experts from the biofuel, petroleum refinery and automaking industries gathered to attend the 2023 International Green Fuels Symposium on Tuesday to evaluate sustainable fuel market trends and examine related policies in the country.

Under the theme “The Role of Green Fuels in Realizing 2050 Carbon Neutrality," the event was hosted by the Korea Automobile Journalists Association, the US Embassy in South Korea and the US Grains Council.

Lawmakers, government officials and academic researchers attended the symposium held at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul in the capital.

The event examined recent global policies on eco-friendly fuels such as bioethanol, renewable synthetic fuels and sustainable aviation fuels, along with the current situation in Korea. Policy solutions for carbon reduction in Korea’s transport sector were also discussed.

In the panel discussion, experts suggested biofuel, a renewable energy source, should be used more broadly both in Korea and abroad to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, as it is the most practical and readily available sustainable option along with electric vehicles.

Some 60 countries around the world including the US, Japan and China have already adopted bioethanol -- a petrol substitute -- to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas and replace fossil fuels. Among them, 47 countries use biodiesel and bioethanol together. Experts at the symposium agreed that Korea is ready to implement bioethanol-blended fuel as well.

“Bioethanol is produced and supplied to blend well with petroleum products based on its similar chemical makeup to petrol. It is no longer a material that conflicts with automakers and petroleum refiners,” said Kim Jae-Kyung, a researcher at the Korea Energy Economics Institute.

“Blended bioethanol can be a practical source for automakers and petroleum refiners to help achieve net zero by 2050,” added Kim Hak-soo, country director of the US Grains Council Korea Office.

“The diversification of transport energy sources could also contribute to energy security.”

The National Assembly has vowed to support the research and development as well as policies for implementing green fuels.

In the first session of the symposium, various participants shared their views on the progress of carbon neutrality, bioethanol policies of various countries and infrastructure compatibility.

“To achieve carbon neutrality in the transport sector, we must consider solutions for operating existing vehicles as well as manufacturing new ones. Especially for fields where it is hard to transition to electricity, such as aviation and shipping, biofuels are expected to be widely adopted,” said Choi Dae-yul, president of the Korea Automobile Journalists Association, in his opening speech.

The second session featured presentations on various eco-friendly fuels such as electrofuels and sustainable aviation fuels, or SAF, which have garnered attention due to the US’ recent Inflation Reduction Act. Bioethanol is expected to be the most suitable source of SAF production in terms of carbon reduction and economic efficiency.

Some experts also proposed that bioethanol should be included in the Renewable Fuel Standard -- a US federal program that requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.