Environmental profile of ethanol from poplar biomass as transport fuel in Southern Europe

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

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77 Citations (Scopus)


Liquid biofuels provide one of the few options for fossil fuel substitution in the short to medium-term and they are strongly being promoted by the European Union as transport fuel (such as ethanol) since they have the potential to offer both greenhouse gas (GHG) savings and energy security. A "well to wheel" analysis has been conducted for poplar based ethanol by means of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach. The aim of the analysis is to assess the environmental performance of three ethanol applications (E10, E85 and E100) in comparison with conventional gasoline. To compare the environmental profiles, the study addressed the impact potentials per kilometre driven by a middle size passenger car, taking into account the performance difference between ethanol blends and gasoline. According to the results of this study, fuel ethanol derived from poplar biomass may help to reduce the contributions to global warming, abiotic resources depletion and ozone layer depletion up to 62%, 72% and 36% respectively. Reductions of fossil fuel extraction of up to 80% could be achieved when pure ethanol is used. On the contrary, contributions to other impact categories would be increased, specifically to acidification and eutrophication. In both categories, ethanol based blends are less environmentally friendly than conventional gasoline due to the higher impact from the upstream activities. Research focussed on the reduction of the environmental impacts should be pointed forward poplar cultivation as well as ethanol conversion plant (enzyme manufacturing, energy production and distillation). In this study poplar cultivation was really intensive in order to obtain a high yield. Strategic planning according to the location of the crops and its requirements should help to reduce these impacts from its cultivation. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1014-1023
JournalRenewable Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010


  • Biomass
  • Environmental performance
  • Ethanol
  • Gasoline
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Poplar


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