Japan opens comment period on updated biofuel standards proposal

By Erin Voegele | February 21, 2023

The government of Japan on Feb. 1 issued proposed biofuel standards for 2023-2027 that address both ethanol and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). A public comment period is open through March 2, with the new standards scheduled to take effect April 1, 2023.

A report filed with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Information Network explains that Japan’s current transport biofuels standards expire on March 31. The Japan Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry held four expert committee meetings in 2022 focused on updating the country’s biofuel standards. An interim proposal was released in late December and subject to a three-week comment period. 

METI held an expert committee meeting on Feb. 1 to review public comments gathered during that comment period and released draft standards later that day. The agency is now accepting public comments on those draft standards.

In the latest draft, METI is proposing to maintain the annual target volume for transport biofuels at 500 million liters (132.09 million gallons) crude oil equivalent of biobased ethanol for Japan's fiscal years 2023-2027. That target was maintained from the December 2022 draft standards.

METI has also proposed to update the lifecycle assessment (LCA) for U.S. corn based ethanol to 36.86 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule (gCO2e/MJ), down from the December proposal of 37.1 gCO2e/MJ. Under current regulations, the LCA for U.S. corn based ethanol is set at 43.15 gCO2e/MJ. The latest proposal also updates the LCA for Brazilian sugarcane-based ethanol to 28.59 gCO2/MJ, up slightly from the 28.56 gCO2e/MJ proposed in December. Under current regulations, the LCA for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is 33.61 gCO2e/MJ.

METI is also proposing to keep the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for transport biofuel at 55 percent of GHG emissions for gasoline until it completes a new LCA for gasoline. Once METI finalizes the new gasoline LCA, the reduction target will increase to 60 percent of GHG emissions from gasoline use.

In its latest proposal, METI indicates that it will only recognize sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as bio-jet fuel. SAF use can count toward the 500 million liter of biofuel target. SAF derived from certain feedstocks, including cellulosic material, recycled carbon dioxide, used cooking oil, animal fats, and microalgae, is to be double counted.

METI also said it will not require the use of cellulosic ethanol until Japanese fiscal year 2028. From 2028 through 2032, METI has set a target of 10 million liters of cellulosic ethanol, which will also be double counted for purposes of meeting the 500 million liter biofuel target.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the USDA FAS GAIN website