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01-04-2014 | LCA FOR ENERGY SYSTEMS AND FOOD PRODUCTS | Issue 4/2014

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 4/2014

Climate change impacts on life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings of biomethanol from corn and soybean

Journal:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Issue 4/2014
Authors:
Nasir Anka Garba, Les John Duckers, William John Hall
Important notes
Responsible editor: Mary Ann Curran

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to assess and calculate the potential impacts of climate change on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction potentials of combined production of whole corn bioethanol and stover biomethanol, and whole soybean biodiesel and stalk biomethanol. Both fuels are used as substitutes to conventional fossil-based fuels. The product system includes energy crop (feedstock) production and transportation, biofuels processing, and biofuels distribution to service station.

Methods

The methodology is underpinned by life cycle thinking. Crop system model and life cycle assessment (LCA) model are linked in the analysis. The Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer – crop system model (DSSAT-CSM) is used to simulate biomass and grain yield under different future climate scenarios generated using a combination of temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric CO2. Historical weather data for Gainesville, Florida, are obtained for the baseline period (1981–1990). Daily minimum and maximum air temperatures are projected to increase by +2.0, +3.0, +4.0, and +5.0 °C, precipitation is projected to change by ±20, 10, and 5 %, and atmospheric CO2 concentration is projected to increase by +70, +210, and +350 ppm. All projections are made throughout the growing season. GaBi 4.4 is used as primary LCA modelling software using crop yield data inputs from the DSSAT-CSM software. The models representation of the physical processes inventory (background unit processes) is constructed using the ecoinvent life cycle inventory database v2.0.

Results and discussion

Under current baseline climate condition, net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings per hectare from corn-integrated biomethanol synthesis (CIBM) and soybean-integrated biomethanol synthesis (SIBM) were calculated as −8,573.31 and −3,441 kg CO2-eq. ha−1 yr−1, respectively. However, models predictions suggest that these potential GHG emissions savings would be impacted by changing climate ranging from negative to positive depending on the crop and biofuel type, and climate scenario. Increased atmospheric level of CO2 tends to minimise the negative impacts of increased temperature.

Conclusions

While policy measures are being put in place for the use of renewable biofuels driven by the desire to reduce GHG emissions from the use of conventional fossil fuels, climate change would also have impacts on the potential GHG emissions reductions resulting from the use of these renewable biofuels. However, the magnitude of the impact largely depends on the biofuel processing technology and the energy crop (feedstock) type.

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