Purpose: Several factors contribute to the current increased focus on alternative fuels such as biodiesel, including an increasing awareness of the environmental impact of petrochemical (PC) oil products such as PC diesel, the continuously increasing price of PC oil, and the depletion of PC oil. For these reasons, the European Union has enacted a directive requiring each member state to ensure that the share of energy from renewable sources in transport be at least 10 % of the final consumption of energy by 2020 (The European Parliament and the Council 2009). This LCA study assesses the specific environmental impacts from the production and use of biodiesel as it is today (real-time), based on rapeseed oil and different types of alcohols, and using technologies that are currently available or will be available shortly. Different options are evaluated for the environmental improvement of production methods. The modeling of the LCA is based on a specific Danish biodiesel production facility. Methods: The functional unit is “1,000 km transportation for a standard passenger car.” All relevant process stages are included, such as rapeseed production including carbon sequestration and N2O balances, and transportation of products used in the life cycle of biodiesel. System expansion has been used to handle allocation issues. Results and discussion: The climate change potential from the production and use of biodiesel today is 57 kg CO2-eq/ 1,000 km, while PC diesel is 214 kg CO2-eq/1,000 km. Options for improvement include the increased use of residual straw from rapeseed fields for combustion in a power plant where carbon sequestration is considered, and a change in transesterification from a conventional process to an enzymatic process when using bioethanol instead of PC methanol. This research also evaluates results for land use, respiratory inorganics potential, human toxicity (carc) potential, ecotoxicity (freshwater) potential, and aquatic eutrophication (N) potential. Different sources for uncertainty are evaluated, and the largest drivers for uncertainty are the assumptions embedded into the substitution effects. The results presented should not be interpreted as a blueprint for the increased production of biodiesel but rather as a benchmarking point for the present, actual impact in a well-towheels perspective of biodiesel, with options for improving production and use. Conclusions: Based on this analysis, we recommend investigating additional options and incentives regarding the increased use of rape straw, particularly considering the carbon sequestration issues (from the perspective of potential climate change) of using bioalcohol instead of PC alcohol for the transesterification process.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 2013, Vol 18, Issue 2, p. 418-430