By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK, March 1 (Reuters) - Industry leaders talked up the future of biofuels in the energy transition at IHS Markit's virtual CERAWeek conference on Monday, noting that policy incentives and feedstock innovation will be crucial going forward.
The transition to an electric vehicle fleet is expected to be a long one, making renewable fuels a growth market for refiners and others seeking out road transport options that will emit fewer greenhouse gases.
Renewable fuels advocates touched on the success of California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard program in encouraging companies to seek out new feedstocks that would decrease the carbon intensity of fuels. As demand for biomass-based fuels such as renewable diesel increase, feedstock demand will rise with it.
"Many new feeds are still unknown," said Chad Stone, senior vice president of commercial performance at Renewable Energy Group and chairman of the National Biodiesel Board. "We've seen a lot of new renewable diesel demand coming to the marketplace, and that's going to drive new feedstock needs, too."
Renewable diesel - made from feedstocks such as used cooking oil, animal fats and plant oils - can power diesel engines. It's a drop-in fuel, meaning it can replace traditional petroleum diesel without additional blending.
Tom Scott, global director Of agribusiness consulting for IHS Markit, said even though feedstock demand is growing, supply will not be an issue. He added, though, that it will take time to get more unconventional feedstocks in place that the market may rely on.
"Things are going to be a little different moving forward, unconventional feedstocks," Scott said.
Along with innovation, companies will focus on sustainable aviation fuel to help reduce the carbon emissions of the aircraft industry, said Jennifer Holmgren, chief executive of carbon recycling firm LanzaTech, and Andrea Redford, chief business development officer at biofuel manufacturer Enerkem. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; editing by Jonathan Oatis)