Liquid Biofuels: The North American Market

Published - Mar 2009| Analyst - Susan Hanft| Code - EGY064A
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Report Highlights

  • The North American market for liquid biofuels was worth $37.3 billion in 2008. This is expected to decrease slightly to $34.2 billion in 2013, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of (1.7%. )
  • First generation biofuels currently dominate the market, generating $37.3 billion in 2008. This should decrease at a CAGR of -1.7% to reach $34.2 billion in 2013.
  • The other fuels segment is expected to increase from $2.0 million in 2008 to $308.0 million in 2013, for a CAGR of 173.8%.



This BCC Research report is designed to offer an in-depth analysis of the market for liquid biofuels in North America. While the term “biofuels” describes solid, liquid, or gaseous fuel derived from relatively recently dead biological material as opposed to fossil fuels, which are derived from long-dead biological material, for the purposes of this report, biofuels will refer to liquid fuels only. At present, two biofuel types are commercially available, bioethanol and biodiesel. As the term “ethanol” has come to refer to bioethanol in common English language usage, this report also will adhere to that convention.

In addition to ethanol and biodiesel, often referred to a first-generation biofuels, several more fuel types may be manufactured from raw materials derived from plant resources. These include second-generation ethanol (cellulosic ethanol), biobutanol, algae-based biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch fuels, green gasoline, and others.

The primary drivers for the industry are government mandates that have established levels of biofuels that must be added to fossil fuels. In this study, the market for biofuels is analyzed by feedstock type, by production capacity, and by producer. Market values are calculated from historical per gallon sales prices and predicted prices according to the futures markets. Conclusions are illustrated with statistical information on markets, applications, industry structure, and dynamics, along with technological developments.


While biofuels account for just 1% of world fuel consumption and only slightly more in North America, they are the subject of considerable global interest. Conventional energy resources, mainly fossil fuels, are becoming limited due to a rapid worldwide increase in demand. A growing imbalance in energy demand and supply affects consumer prices as well as the environment, prompting a search for new sustainable energy resources. Biomass is one such environmentally sound renewable resource from which various fuels can be manufactured. Fuels produced from plant materials also have the potential to invigorate lagging agricultural sectors in emerging countries, such as those in Central America.

The study is intended for individuals requiring an in-depth analysis of the biofuels industry that traces significant developments and forecasts important trends, quantifies the various market sectors, and highlights companies active in those areas.

Because of the diverse and fragmented nature of the industry, it is difficult to find studies that gather such extensive data from far-reaching resources and have this data presented in one comprehensive document. This report contains a unique collection of information, analyses, forecasts, and conclusions that is very hard (or impossible) to find elsewhere. 


With the significant rise in North American biofuels production, increasing volumes of agricultural resources are being diverted to the industry. This phenomenon has created concerns regarding agricultural resource competition and how it might affect food production in North America and around the world.

This report on biofuel products, process technology, market players, and industry trends is intended to present pertinent information for anyone concerned with the interface between agriculture, energy, and fuels. Interested parties might include:  new business and business development managers, project investors and developers, green power marketers, energy market advisors, energy professionals, engineers, venture capital investors, commodity brokers and analysts, biofuel producers, biofuels technology and equipment suppliers, feedstock suppliers, energy and environmental researchers, vegetable oil crushers and refiners, fuel blenders, marketers and distributors, and oil and gas project developers.


The North American Market for Liquid Biofuels first presents a general overview of biofuel types, manufacturing methods, feedstock options, typical plant costs, and operating margins, followed by an analysis of individual regions in North America: the U.S., Canada, and Latin America (Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean). Each region is evaluated in terms of fuel production and demand, the legislative framework for biofuels use, incentives for production, and number and capacity of plants.

For the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, a full listing of existing commercial-scale plants (greater than 1 million gal./yr. (mgy), producing and nonproducing) is presented, as are listings of plants under construction. Each regional evaluation includes estimates of market size for sales of ethanol, biodiesel, and other fuel types, and a forecast for growth to 2013. Values are given in U.S. dollars. Forecasts are in constant U.S. dollars and growth rates are compounded.

The report includes breakdown of industry structure and brief company profiles of more than 500 businesses, which include addresses, phone and fax numbers, and websites. A 5-year patent review also is presented, which sorts more than 900 relevant patents by application and assignee.


The information sources for this study include online research; Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings; annual reports; company brochures; patent literature; business, technical, and industry journals; conference literature; and interviews of industry participants. Statistical and other data also was collected from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Office of the U. S. Trade Representative, Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Nebraska Ethanol Board, Resource Canada, the Renewable Fuels Association, National Biodiesel Board, American Coalition for Ethanol, The Methanol Institute, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Green Car Congress.


In the past 12 years, Susan Hanft has authored more than 17 market research reports for BCC Research in the fields of membrane technology, water and wastewater treatment, and separations used in power generation, food and beverage manufacturing, medicine, and biotechnology. Ms. Hanft is also editor of the daily BCC Research newsletter Fuel Cell Today and the bi-monthly newsletter Membrane & Separation Technology News.


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The information developed in this report, is intended to be as reliable as possible at the time of publication and of a professional nature. This information does not constitute managerial, legal, or accounting advice, nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide, laboratory manual, or an endorsement of any product, as much of the information is of a speculative in nature. The author assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage that might result from reliance on the reported information or from its use.

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