Environmental impacts of bioethanol using the NREL biochemical conversion route: multivariate analysis and single score results

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J. Daystar, T. Treasure, C. Reeb, R. Venditti, R. Gonzalez, and S. Kelley, “Environmental impacts of bioethanol using the NREL biochemical conversion route: multivariate analysis and single score results,” Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 484–500, 2015.

Type Journal Article
Author Jesse Daystar
Author Trevor Treasure
Author Carter Reeb
Author Richard Venditti
Author Ronalds Gonzalez
Author Steve Kelley
URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bbb.1553
Volume 9
Issue 5
Pages 484-500
Publication Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
ISSN 1932-1031
Date 2015
Journal Abbr Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
DOI 10.1002/bbb.1553
Abstract Mandated Environmental Protection Agency biofuel qualifications focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fossil fuel use are limited in perspective and have the potential to encourage burden shifting. When a broader host of environmental impacts are examined, environmental trade-offs often exist when biofuels are compared to gasoline. Multivariate analysis methods examining a wide variety of weighting value systems and methodology assumptions were used to determine process design options with the lowest overall environmental impact. A multivariate environmental analysis was applied to the dilute acid pre-treatment process followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and the fermentation process for converting loblolly pine, eucalyptus, natural hardwood, switchgrass, and sweet sorghum biomass to ethanol. The influence of co-product treatment method choices, inclusion of direct land-use change, and electrical grid assumptions were examined using 16 different weighting methods to create a single score result. Biofuel system rankings based on GHG emissions following the Renewable Fuel Standards 2 (RFS2) methods were very sensitive to the co-product treatment method, inclusion of land-use change emissions, and energy grid assumptions. The multivariate analysis ranking was heavily influenced by other environmental impacts resulting from the production of process chemicals used in ethanol conversion. Weighting methods examined had no influence on the environmental preference ranking of the biofuel scenarios. Additionally, the biofuel ranking based on the RFS2 methodology was different than the ranking following the multivariate approach examining additional impacts. These findings demonstrate a robust approach to biofuel life cycle assessment (LCA) scenario analysis and suggest that the limited scope of the RFS2 environmental analysis could result in burden shifting. © 2015 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd


  • Biofuels
  • Economic analysis
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Ethanol
  • Fuels
  • Renewable energy
  • Sorghum

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