Where to produce rapeseed biodiesel and why? Mapping European rapeseed energy efficiency
Rapeseed is widely used to produce biodiesel, especially in Europe. In several studies, it has been shown that there is a good potential for growing this crop across the continent. However there is still little awareness that the energy efficiency of biofuel production from rapeseed is very low. Energy efficiency can be expressed in terms of Energy Return for Energy Invested (EROEI). We mapped EROEI values for all EU countries plus Switzerland based on expected yields derived from rapeseed suitability maps. We find that EU countries produce rapeseed biofuel with EROEI values of 2.2 and lower. We suggest that plans for biofuel cropping have to be supplemented by maps of EROEI. It is not only relevant to show where rapeseed can be grown, but we should also look at where its use for bioenergy can be efficient. In the area theoretically suitable for growing rainfed rapeseed (excluding unsuitable areas and water), 37.6% of the area can produce rape methyl ester (RME) biofuel only with an energy loss. We conclude that the energy efficiency of rapeseed biodiesel is low and spatially heterogeneous, and unless there are major technological improvements in the production process, replacing fossil fuels by biofuels from rapeseed is hardly a feasible option.
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