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Energy consumption and GHG emissions of six biofuel pathways by LCA in (the) People's Republic of China


  • Ou, Xunmin
  • Zhang, Xiliang
  • Chang, Shiyan
  • Guo, Qingfang


This paper presents life-cycle-analysis (LCA) energy consumption (EC) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of China's current six biofuel pathways, which are: corn-derived ethanol (CE); cassava-derived ethanol (KE); sweet sorghum-derived ethanol (SE); soybean-derived bio-diesel (SB); jatropha fruit-derived bio-diesel (JB); and used cooking oil (UCO)-derived bio-diesel (UB). The tool utilized here is the WTW (Well-to-Wheels) module of Tsinghua-CA3EM model covering the entire lifecycle including: raw materials cultivation (or feedstock collection); fuel production; transportation and distribution; and application in automobile engines, compared with Conventional Petroleum-based gasoline and diesel Pathways (CPP). The results indicate: (1) the fossil energy inputs are about 1.0-1.5 times the energy contained in the fuel for the CE, SE and SB pathways, but 0.5-0.9 times for the KE, UB and JB pathways; (2) compared with CPP, the JB, KE and UB pathways can reduce both fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions; the CE and SB pathways can only reduce fossil fuel consumption, but increase GHG emission; the SE pathway increases not only fossil fuel consumption but also GHG emission; and (3) the main factors inducing high EC and GHG emission levels include: high EC levels during the fuel production stage and high fertilizer application rates during the planting of raw feedstocks. Conclusions are that of the aforementioned biofuel pathways in (the) People's Republic of China: (1) only the JB, KE and UB pathways have energy-saving merits as indicated by the LCA energy inputs and outputs; (2) compared with CPP, all but the SE pathway reduces fossil fuel consumption. However, the SB and CE pathway increase GHG emission; (3) all six displace petroleum by utilizing more coal; and (4) feedstock productivity levels must be increased, and there must be a reduction in fertilizer utilization and EC consumption during the cultivation and transportation stages in order to achieve the goals of energy balance and GHG emission reduction.

Suggested Citation

  • Ou, Xunmin & Zhang, Xiliang & Chang, Shiyan & Guo, Qingfang, 2009. "Energy consumption and GHG emissions of six biofuel pathways by LCA in (the) People's Republic of China," Applied Energy, Elsevier, pages 197-208.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:86:y:2009:i:supplement1:p:s197-s208

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paatero, Jukka V. & Lund, Peter D., 2007. "Effects of large-scale photovoltaic power integration on electricity distribution networks," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, pages 216-234.
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