Biodiesel on the World Stage

As a value-added product for agriculture, domestic biodiesel can be effectively produced from animal fats and recycled cooking and vegetable oils left over from livestock and human food.

Around the world, biodiesel creates a market for waste that would otherwise be discarded into landfills, as well as for oil produced from crushing soybeans and other meal-producing oilseeds like rapeseed. Other feedstocks include sugar cane, corn, cassava, cellulosic switchgrass, palm oil, castor, jatropha and algae, reports University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems.

biodiesel on the world stage

Where in the World is Biodiesel Produced?

While the U.S. outproduces other suppliers, Brazil, Indonesia, Germany and Argentina round out the top five list of single-country producers. The U.S. and Brazil have a combined share of nearly 87 percent of world production, according to Statista, a market and consumer data firm.

  • Brazil alone accounted for about a quarter of the world’s biofuel production in 2018. Sugar cane is the primary feedstock used for ethanol production, while soybeans are used in biodiesel production. Of total biofuel production, biodiesel is about a 14 percent share.
  • Indonesian biodiesel production relies on palm oil as its feedstock and is the third largest producer. The Pacific nation made about 1.05 billion gallons in 2018.
  • Germany is the world’s fourth largest biodiesel producer with about three percent of global capacity. Germany produces annually about half the volume of U.S. plants. Germany primarily relies on rapeseed and used cooking oil for its biodiesel feedstocks.
  • Argentina represents almost three percent of total global production capacity. USDA notes most of the country’s 13 plants use sugarcane for feedstock. Argentina also accounts for more than half of the world’s biodiesel product exports.

Where in the World is Biodiesel Used?

“There’s close to a three-billion-gallon market for biodiesel in the U.S., and it’s a similar market in Europe,” says Jon Scharingson, executive director for REG. “We certainly expect biodiesel growth as North America and the globe look for low carbon fuel solutions for transportation.”

In 2001, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates worldwide biodiesel consumption was 0.3 billion gallons. By 2016, global consumption rose to about 9.3 billion gallons across 56 countries. More than half of that volume is consumed in five countries.

  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects biodiesel use will decrease in developed countries and expand in developing countries during this decade.
  • Biodiesel use in Indonesia could reach 1.08 billion gallons by 2027, according to FAO. The U.S. Soybean Export Council says the Indonesian government increased its biodiesel blends to 20 percent last year with plans for expansion to B30 this year.
  • Brazil and Argentina are forecast by FAO to grow to 1.48 billion gallons and 502 million gallons respectively during the next several years.
  • Because of biodiesel blending requirements, small volume users Colombia, India, Malaysia, Paraguay, Thailand and Philippines will also see expansion.
multiple players and multiple feedstocks

Donnell Rehagen“The potential will only continue to grow,” says Donnell Rehagen, National Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO, adding that Illinois soybean farmers are part of the global story. “What farmers do in Illinois soybean fields is being analyzed and discussed in urban centers and in local governments around the globe. Illinois farmers should be proud of the sustainability story they can share about their product, and the fuel it creates. It’s truly making a difference.”