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20.02.2014 | THE ECOINVENT DATABASE V3 | Ausgabe 9/2016

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 9/2016

Updated and harmonised greenhouse gas emissions for crop inventories

Zeitschrift:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Ausgabe 9/2016
Autoren:
Thomas Nemecek, Julian Schnetzer, Jürgen Reinhard
Wichtige Hinweise
Responsible editor: Matthias Finkbeiner

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11367-014-0712-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
An erratum to this article can be found at http://​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11367-016-1211-9.

Abstract

Purpose

The emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) is a key criterion in the environmental assessment of biofuels. Life cycle inventories taking into account the latest methodological developments are an essential prerequisite for this assessment. In the last years, substantial progresses in the modelling of nitrogen emissions relevant for the climate as well as in modelling the emissions from land use change (LUC) have been achieved. Therefore, the biomass production inventories in the ecoinvent database were revised to take into account these developments.

Methods

The IPCC method tier 1 has been used for the assessment of N2O emissions. Induced emissions from NH3 and NO3 were included as well. Due to the importance of the latter emissions for N2O formation, these emissions have also been updated and harmonised. The Agrammon model was used for the NH3 emissions. The SALCA-NO3 model has been applied in the European inventories to estimate nitrate leaching, whilst in non-European inventories the SQCB-NO3 model has been used. The quantification of the land use change areas has been based on annualized, retrospective data of the last 20 years. All carbon pools (from aboveground biomass to soil organic carbon) were considered and differentiated on a regional level for all of the natural vegetation categories affected. Whenever possible, default values and methods from the IPCC 2006 were applied.

Results and discussion

The changes for ammonia emissions were generally very small (−5 % on average). The nitrate emissions increased on average by +13 %, but this slight trend is the result of important downward and upward changes, whilst the average N2O emissions decreased by −26 %. For the existing inventories of soybean, palm oil and sugarcane production, significant increases of GHG emissions resulted from LUC modelling. This was mainly due to the consistent inclusion of all carbon stocks according to the IPCC guidelines. The calculation method can also result in important C sequestration effects in certain cases like African Jatropha production.

Conclusions

The changes in greenhouse gas emissions due to the updated methodology were significant. This shows that life cycle assessment studies for biofuels using older methodological bases need to be revised and could lead to different conclusions. The implemented and cultivated superstructure for LUC modelling is modular and flexible and can be easily extended to other important crop activities. The new parameterisation functionality applied for the activities provides powerful means for the simple generation of site-specific activities.

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