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Life cycle assessment in the bioenergy sector. Developing a systematic review

By R. Rowe, J. Whitaker, J. Chapman, D. Howard and G. Taylor

Abstract

The UK and EU have pledged to increase the utilisation of biomass in the energy sector, for both heat and power generation, and liquid transport fuels, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and helping to achieve reduction targets. It is therefore necessary to critically assess complete bioenergy production chains to:<br/>- ensure GHG and energy balances of production process are favourable<br/>- identify areas within each production chain which are particularly inefficient, energy intensive, or emit high concentrations of GHGs<br/>- highlight research and development (R&amp;D) needs within the field<br/>In order to fulfil these objectives, this study has reviewed hundreds of life cycle assessments (LCAs) relevant to the UK. Studies covered a range of bioenergy production systems within the sector, including seven broad methods of liquid transport fuel production and four sources of feedstock for heat and power production from biomass. These include bioenergy chains which are currently used commercially within the UK as well as those in R&amp;D stages.<br/>The study has used a systematic selection and analysis procedure to assess each LCA, collating data on the energy and GHG balances of liquid transport fuels and biomass for heat and power. This consistent approach will produce a dataset which can be used to uniquely compare the energy and GHG balances of these two uses of biomass. The representation of collated LCAs as straightforward visual summaries highlights variations within methodology, system boundaries and reporting.<br/>Although this study is ongoing, several issues relating to the lack of transparency of LCA reporting have already become apparent. Common obstacles to reviewing this subject have been in successfully identifying system boundaries, co-product allocation methods and conversion efficiencies used in the LCAs being analysed. Therefore, a set of recommendations for LCA reporting are listed at the end of this repor

Topics: TD, QH301
Publisher: UK Energy Research Centre
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:160019
Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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