Environmental aspects of ethanol-based fuels from Brassica carinata: A case study of second generation ethanol

Sara González-García, Carles M. Gasol, Xavier Gabarrell, Joan Rieradevall, M. Teresa Moreira, Gumersindo Feijoo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

One of the main challenges faced by mankind in the 21st century is to meet the increasing demand for energy requirements by means of a more sustainable energy supply. In countries that are net fossil fuel importers, expectation about the benefit of using alternative fuels on reducing oil imports is the primary driving force behind efforts to promote its production and use. Spain is scarce in domestic energy sources and more than 50% of the energy used is fossil fuel based. The promotion of renewable energies use is one of the principal vectors in the Spanish energy policy. Selected herbaceous crops such as Brassica carinata are currently under study as potential energy sources. Its biomass can be considered as potential feedstock to ethanol conversion by an enzymatic process due to the characteristics of its composition, rich in cellulose and hemicellulose. This paper aims to analyse the environmental performance of two ethanol-based fuel applications (E10 and E85) in a passenger car (E10 fuel: a mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline by volume; E85 fuel: a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline by volume) as well as their comparison with conventional gasoline as transport fuel. Two types of functional units are applied in this study: ethanol production oriented and travelling distance oriented functional units in order to reflect the availability or not of ethanol supply. E85 seems to be the best alternative when ethanol production based functional unit is considered in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and E10 in terms of non-renewable energy resources use. Nevertheless, E85 offers the best environmental performance when travelling distance oriented functional unit is assumed in both impacts. In both functional unit perspectives, the use of ethanol-based fuels reduces the global warming and fossil fuels consumption. However, the contributions to other impact indicators (e.g. acidification, eutrophication and photochemical oxidants formation) were lower for conventional gasoline. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) procedure helps to identify the key areas in the B. carinata ethanol production life cycle where the researchers and technicians need to work to improve the environmental performance. Technological development could help in lowering both the environmental impact and the prices of the ethanol fuels. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2613-2620
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

Keywords

  • Brassica carinata
  • E10
  • E85
  • Environmental performance
  • Ethanol fuels
  • Functional unit
  • Life Cycle Assessment

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