Fuel Quality Directive

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Note: This page is part of the EU biofuel policy tracker, created with content provided by the International Council on Clean Transportation

Information on the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) of the European Union.

Policy implementation in EU countries
This page was developed with information supplied by ICCT, the International Council on Clean Transportation (http://www.theicct.org/).
EU biofuel policy tracker:
Implementation of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and
Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) in
AustriaBelgiumBulgariaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkEstoniaFinlandFranceGermanyGreeceHungaryIrelandItalyLatviaLithuaniaLuxembourgMaltaThe NetherlandsPolandPortugalRomaniaSlovakiaSloveniaSpainSwedenUnited Kingdom
(Template for country information)
  • Note: Information believed to be current as of 1 October 2011.



  • The Fuel Quality Directive sets a target for ta 6% reduction of the carbon intensity of transport fuel supplied in the European Union. This carbon intensity reduction could be achieved by any low carbon fuel options, such as hydrogen or electricity, but it is widely expected that the bulk of the target will be met by the use of biofuels. The target of 6% is designed to be consistent with the use of 10% biofuel with an average 60% carbon saving to comply with the Renewable Energy Directive. The Directive includes sustainability criteria (mirrored in the Renewable Energy Directive) that put a minimum threshold on the direct emissions savings from biofuels based on a lifecycle analysis methodology described in the directive, and define categories of high biodiversity and high carbon land that must not be converted for biofuels production. The Directive puts an obligation on European Member States to enforce both the overall targets and the sustainability conditions, and so the legal requirements on economic operators may vary from Member State to Member State.

Implementing authority

  • The emissions intensity element of the Fuel Quality Directive is implemented by the European Commission Directorate General for Climate Action (DG Clima).

Year introduced

  • The Directive was amended in 2009 to address the carbon emissions intensity of European fuel, and the amendment was due to have been implemented by Member States by 31st December 2010. Progress towards full implementation has been variable - in general, Member States do not intend to take specific implementing measures beyond their [Renewable Energy Directive | RED] implementations until closer to the 2020 end point. More information on Member State implementations is available on the country implementation pages (see box, top right).

Scheme website


  • The Fuel Quality Directive places a target that the carbon intensity of European road transport fuel should be reduced by 6% by 2020 compared to the baseline. It further imposes 'indicative targets' for additional carbon intensity reductions of 2%.
    • The first 2% reduction may be invoked subject to Article 9(1)(h) of the Directive, which states that the European Commission shall report in 2012 and every three years thereafter on:
    the potential need for adjustments to Articles 2(6), 2(7) and 7a(2)(b) in order to assess possible contributions for reaching a greenhouse gas reduction target of up to 10 % by 2020. These considerations shall be based on the potential for life cycle greenhouse gas emission reductions from fuels and energy within the Community, taking into account in particular any developments in environmentally safe carbon capture and storage technologies and in electric road vehicles, and the cost effectiveness of means of reducing those emissions, as referred to in Article 7a(2)(b).
    Here 'energy' refers to electricity for transport, as opposed to liquid fuels. This additional saving therefore targets electrification and carbon capture and storage.
    • The second 2% additional reduction would be achieved through the purchase of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits.

Legally obligated parties, opt-in parties and compliance pathways

  • The Fuel Quality Directive does not apply directly to economic operators, but rather puts an obligation on European Member States to designate the economic operators responsible for supplying fuel and to impose an obligation on them to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel by 6% by 2020. The Directive allows but does not insist that Member States should set intermediate targets for 2% carbon intensity reductions by 1014 and 4% by 2017.


The Fuel Quality Directive imposes requirements (mirrored in the Renewable Energy Directive) that biofuels should meet certain sustainability criteria. These criteria also apply to bioliquids for heat and power, but not to other forms of renewable energy such as solid biomass. These cover the greenhouse gas emissions savings from using the fuels, and the types of land that may be converted to biofuels production. There are also conditions on European feedstock production on cross-compliance with agricultural sustainability rules.

Greenhouse gas emissions

  • The Fuel Quality Directive is explicitly targeted to reduce GHG emissions – the fourth recital states:
One aspect of greenhouse gas emissions from transport has been tackled through the Community policy on CO2 and cars. Transport fuel use makes a significant contribution to overall Community greenhouse gas emissions. Monitoring and reducing fuel life cycle greenhouse gas emissions can contribute to helping the Community meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals through the decarbonisation of transport fuel.
  • The Directive sets minimum thresholds for the carbon saving compared to fossil fuel that must be achieved by a biofuel to be eligible for support under Member State renewable energy policies:
The greenhouse gas emission saving from the use of biofuels and bioliquids taken into account for the purposes referred to in paragraph 1 shall be at least 35 %.

With effect from 1 January 2017, the greenhouse gas emission saving from the use of biofuels and bioliquids taken into account for the purposes referred to in paragraph 1 shall be at least 50 %. From 1 January 2018 that greenhouse gas emission saving shall be at least 60 % for biofuels and bioliquids produced in installations in which production started on or after 1 January 2017.

  • The Directive defines a lifecycle methodology (detailed by Article 7d(1) and Annex IV) to calculate greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production.
  • Based on the methodology, the European Commission has calculated default emissions for different biofuel production pathways. Regulated entities reporting biofuel under the Renewable Energy Directive may in general report that it has the default carbon intensity without providing any additional information to Member States.
  • The Directive also includes values for typical emissions, which are in general lower than default emissions. Regulated entities that are able to provide additional information about their production processes will be permitted to report based on typical emissions values.
  • The Directive also allows regulated entities to provide process specific information to generate a different lifecycle emissions intensity value.

Life-cycle analysis (LCA)

  • The LCA used to calculate emissions under RED/FQD is defined in Annex IV of the FQD. The basic calculation is:
E = eec + el + ep + etd + eu – esca – eccs – eccr – eee
E =total emissions from the use of the fuel;
eec =emissions from the extraction or cultivation of raw materials;
el =annualised emissions from carbon stock changes caused by land-use change;
ep =emissions from processing;
etd =emissions from transport and distribution;
eu =emissions from the fuel in use;
esca =emission saving from soil carbon accumulation via improved agricultural management;
eccs =emission saving from carbon capture and geological storage;
eccr =emission saving from carbon capture and replacement; and
eee =emission saving from excess electricity from cogeneration.

  • The methodology has been laid out in more detail including input data by the Biograce project. It is expected that the Biograce calculator tool will be used by regulated entities in many if not all Member States.


  • The minimum carbon saving of 35% does not apply to facilities that were already in operation by 23 January 2008 until after 1 April 2013. Such facilities are therefore exempt from carbon savings requirements of any sort until that date. The definition of a facility in this context is generally taken to be broad, though specific details of what qualifies as a grandfathered facility will be in practice determined by Member State implementations.

GHG emissions from ILUC

  • The RED LCA methodology addresses and includes only direct emissions.
  • Indirect emissions are however recognised as an important issue. Article 19 paragraph 6 states:
The Commission shall, by 31 December 2010, submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council reviewing the impact of indirect land-use change on greenhouse gas emissions and addressing ways to minimise that impact. The report shall, if appropriate, be accompanied, by a proposal, based on the best available scientific evidence, containing a concrete methodology for emissions from carbon stock changes caused by indirect land-use changes, ensuring compliance with this Directive, in particular Article 7b(2).
Such a proposal shall include the necessary safeguards to provide certainty for investment undertaken before that methodology is applied. With respect to installations that produced biofuels before the end of 2013, the application of the measures referred to in the first subparagraph shall not, until 31 December 2017, lead to biofuels produced by those installations being deemed to have failed to comply with the sustainability requirements of this Directive if they would otherwise have done so, provided that those biofuels achieve a greenhouse gas emission saving of at least 45 %. This shall apply to the capacities of the installations of biofuels at the end of 2012.
The European Parliament and the Council shall endeavour to decide, by 31 December 2012, on any such proposals submitted by the Commission.
  • To date, all of the deadlines set out for this process have been missed. The Commission report to Parliament and the Council was submitted only in 2011, and was not accompanied by a proposal – rather, it committed the Commission to a further impact assessment. As of November 2011, this impact assessment was not published, nor had a proposal been submitted.

Mandatory environmental criteria on land types

  • The Renewable Energy Directive restricts production of biofuels on land that had high biodiversity status or high carbon content in or at any point after January 2008; i.e. it restricts the conversion of high biodiversity or high carbon stock land for biofuel production.
  • High biodiversity land is defined to include:
    • Wooded land where there is no evidence of human activity and ecological processes have not been disturbed.
    • Nationally designated nature protection areas
    • Internationally designated conservation areas
    • Highly biodiverse grassland, whether or not that biodiversity is maintained by human intervention
  • High carbon stock land is defined to include:
    • wetlands
    • continuous forests
    • discontinuous forests with greater carbon content than the replacement system
    • peatland where exploitation would involve drainage.
  • There is also a requirement that biofuel crops:
shall be obtained in accordance with the requirements and standards under the provisions referred to under the heading ‘Environment’ in part A and in point 9 of Annex II to Council Regulation (EC) No 73/2009 of 19 January 2009 establishing common rules for direct support schemes for farmers under the common agricultural policy and establishing certain support schemes for farmers OJ L 30, 31.1.2009, p. 16. and in accordance with the minimum requirements for good agricultural and environmental condition defined pursuant to Article 6(1) of that Regulation.
It is anticipated however that this requirement will not be implemented in such a way as to place additional burdens on feedstock suppliers.
  • The Directive forbids ‘gold-plating’ – i.e. Member States must offer access to their support schemes to biofuels that meet the requirements laid out by the Directive, and cannot add additional sustainability criteria.

Additional environmental and social reporting requirements

  • As well as mandatory sustainability requirements, the Directive asks that the Commission report to the Parliament and Council on measures taken in countries supplying substantial amounts of biofuel feedstock to protect soil, air and water quality.
  • The Commission must also report on social sustainability, in particular in developing countries and with respect to land rights. This shall include reporting on implementation in third countries of various ILO Conventions (see Article 7, paragraph 7).

System for verifying carbon and sustainability claims

  • The Directive requires that Member States should take measures to ensure that information reported by regulated entities is accurate. Information about biofuel sustainability must be tracked using a mass balance chain of custody system.
  • The Directive also gives the Commission the power to adjudge that specific biofuel certification schemes provide adequate assurance of the sustainability of biofuels. List of approved schemes

Reporting system

  • There are no requirements of the type of reporting system defined under the RED.

Double reward for cellulosic biofuels, use of wastes and residues

Eligible feedstocks

  • There are no limits on eligible feedstocks under the Directive, although only some feedstock pathways are granted default emissions intensities in Annex IV.

Credit trading

  • The Directive does not require the creation of systems that allow credit trading, this is the prerogative of the Member States.

Aviation and shipping

  • The Directive does not apply to fuel used in aviation and shipping.
Policy implementation in EU countries edit
European Union policy - European Biofuels Directive | EU member states biofuel targets
EU biofuel policy tracker -- Implementation of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) in:
AustriaBelgiumBulgariaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkEstoniaFinlandFranceGermanyGreeceHungaryIrelandItalyLatviaLithuaniaLuxembourgMaltaThe NetherlandsPolandPortugalRomaniaSlovakiaSloveniaSpainSwedenUnited Kingdom
Template for country information


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