Assessing the environmental sustainability of ethanol from integrated biorefineries

T. Falano, H. K. Jeswani, Adisa Azapagic

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper considers the life cycle environmental sustainability of ethanol produced in integrated biorefineries together with chemicals and energy. Four types of second-generation feedstocks are considered: wheat straw, forest residue, poplar, and miscanthus. Seven out of 11 environmental impacts from ethanol are negative, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when the system is credited for the co-products, indicating environmental savings. Ethanol from poplar is the best and straw the worst option for most impacts. Land use change from forest to miscanthus increases the GHG emissions several-fold. For poplar, the effect is opposite: converting grassland to forest reduces the emissions by three-fold. Compared to fossil and first-generation ethanol, ethanol from integrated biorefineries is more sustainable for most impacts, with the exception of wheat straw. Pure ethanol saves up to 87% of GHG emissions compared to petrol per MJ of fuel. However, for the current 5% ethanol–petrol blends, the savings are much smaller (
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)753-765
    Number of pages12
    JournalBiotechnology Journal (Print)
    Volume9
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

    Keywords

    • Biofuels
    • Environmental impacts
    • Ethanol
    • Integrated biorefineries
    • Life cycle assessment

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