An option for the agriculture and energy sectors in Chile is the cultivation of energy crops, but environmental studies are first needed in the framework of a sustainable national energy policy. In this study, we used a cradle-to-farm gate Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to compare environmental impacts and energy and water demand of rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) in Chile, as potential oleaginous crops for first-generation biodiesel production. National agricultural data are used for the LCA inventory and process data of international databases are adapted to local conditions. The effect of field N2O emissions and land use change is evaluated. The results indicate that, compared to sunflower, rapeseed production has a better environmental performance in 9 out of the 11 impact categories evaluated, and lower water consumption. The energy demand of rapeseed is 4.9 GJ/t seed, 30% less than that of sunflower. Mineral fertilizers cause the highest environmental impact in both crops. The analysis of the life cycle of fertilizers indicates that extraction of raw materials and its production are key stages. Attempts to reduce the environmental impact and energy requirement of both crops should be mainly associated with the evaluation of other types of fertilization. In addition, particularly for sunflower, low impact herbicides should be evaluated, seed yield improved and cultivation practices optimized. If the crops are produced on degraded grasslands, the greenhouse gas emissions may be reduced. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.