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Methods of dealing with co-products of biofuels in life-cycle analysis and consequent results within the U.S. context


  • Wang, Michael
  • Huo, Hong
  • Arora, Salil


Products other than biofuels are produced in biofuel plants. For example, corn ethanol plants produce distillers' grains and solubles. Soybean crushing plants produce soy meal and soy oil, which is used for biodiesel production. Electricity is generated in sugarcane ethanol plants both for internal consumption and export to the electric grid. Future cellulosic ethanol plants could be designed to co-produce electricity with ethanol. It is important to take co-products into account in the life-cycle analysis of biofuels and several methods are available to do so. Although the International Standard Organization's ISO 14040 advocates the system boundary expansion method (also known as the "displacement method" or the "substitution method") for life-cycle analyses, application of the method has been limited because of the difficulty in identifying and quantifying potential products to be displaced by biofuel co-products. As a result, some LCA studies and policy-making processes have considered alternative methods. In this paper, we examine the available methods to deal with biofuel co-products, explore the strengths and weaknesses of each method, and present biofuel LCA results with different co-product methods within the U.S. context.

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  • Wang, Michael & Huo, Hong & Arora, Salil, 2011. "Methods of dealing with co-products of biofuels in life-cycle analysis and consequent results within the U.S. context," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 5726-5736, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:10:p:5726-5736

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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    1. repec:eee:ecomod:v:252:y:2013:i:c:p:176-184 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Yang, Q. & Chen, G.Q., 2012. "Nonrenewable energy cost of corn-ethanol in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 340-347.
    3. Krohn, Brian J. & Fripp, Matthias, 2012. "A life cycle assessment of biodiesel derived from the “niche filling” energy crop camelina in the USA," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 92-98.
    4. repec:eee:enepol:v:109:y:2017:i:c:p:565-578 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Soratana, Kullapa & Khanna, Vikas & Landis, Amy E., 2013. "Re-envisioning the renewable fuel standard to minimize unintended consequences: A comparison of microalgal diesel with other biodiesels," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 194-204.
    6. Trivedi, Parthsarathi & Olcay, Hakan & Staples, Mark D. & Withers, Mitch R. & Malina, Robert & Barrett, Steven R.H., 2015. "Energy return on investment for alternative jet fuels," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 167-174.
    7. Zhao, Lili & Ou, Xunmin & Chang, Shiyan, 2016. "Life-cycle greenhouse gas emission and energy use of bioethanol produced from corn stover in China: Current perspectives and future prospectives," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 115(P1), pages 303-313.
    8. Boschiero, Martina & Kelderer, Markus & Schmitt, Armin O. & Andreotti, Carlo & Zerbe, Stefan, 2015. "Influence of agricultural residues interpretation and allocation procedures on the environmental performance of bioelectricity production – A case study on woodchips from apple orchards," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 235-245.
    9. Carneiro, Maria Luisa N.M. & Pradelle, Florian & Braga, Sergio L. & Gomes, Marcos Sebastião P. & Martins, Ana Rosa F.A. & Turkovics, Franck & Pradelle, Renata N.C., 2017. "Potential of biofuels from algae: Comparison with fossil fuels, ethanol and biodiesel in Europe and Brazil through life cycle assessment (LCA)," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 632-653.
    10. Adamczyk, Janusz & Dzikuć, Maciej, 2014. "The analysis of suppositions included in the Polish Energetic Policy using the LCA technique—Poland case study," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 42-50.
    11. Pereira, L.G. & Dias, M.O.S. & Mariano, A.P. & Maciel Filho, R. & Bonomi, A., 2015. "Economic and environmental assessment of n-butanol production in an integrated first and second generation sugarcane biorefinery: Fermentative versus catalytic routes," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 120-131.
    12. Dzikuć, Maciej & Piwowar, Arkadiusz, 2016. "Ecological and economic aspects of electric energy production using the biomass co-firing method: The case of Poland," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 856-862.
    13. Menten, Fabio & Chèze, Benoît & Patouillard, Laure & Bouvart, Frédérique, 2013. "A review of LCA greenhouse gas emissions results for advanced biofuels: The use of meta-regression analysis," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 108-134.
    14. Thomassen, Gwenny & Van Dael, Miet & Lemmens, Bert & Van Passel, Steven, 2017. "A review of the sustainability of algal-based biorefineries: Towards an integrated assessment framework," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 68(P2), pages 876-887.
    15. repec:eee:ecomod:v:253:y:2013:i:c:p:70-78 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Fabio Menten & Benoît Chèze & Laure Patouillard & Frédérique Bouvart, 2013. "The use of Meta-Regression Analysis to harmonize LCA literature: an application to GHG emissions of 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels," Working Papers 2013/01, INRA, Economie Publique.
    17. repec:eee:rensus:v:81:y:2018:i:p2:p:3159-3177 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Menten, Fabio & Tchung-Ming, Stéphane & Lorne, Daphné & Bouvart, Frédérique, 2015. "Lessons from the use of a long-term energy model for consequential life cycle assessment: The BTL case," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 942-960.


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