From: University of Pittsburgh
Published May 19, 2017 01:58 PM

Fueling the Future

Numerous studies have raised critical concerns about the promise of corn ethanol’s ability to mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Some of the studies have suggested that after a full life cycle assessment—meaning an analysis of environmental impact throughout all stages of a product’s life—biofuels like corn ethanol may not offer any greenhouse gas emissions reductions relative to petroleum fuels. 
The Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science recently published research by a team from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oklahoma investigating the full life cycle impact of one promising “second-generation biofuel” produced from short-rotation oak. The study found that second-generation biofuels made from managed trees and perennial grasses may provide a sustainable fuel resource.  
“Multistage torrefaction and in situ catalytic upgrading to hydrocarbon biofuels: analysis of life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions” ( DOI: 10.1039/C7EE00682A) took a novel approach to the production of second-generation biofuel while also comprehensively accounting for all of the steps involved in the full supply chain. 
“Corn ethanol environmental impacts weren’t really studied until after its commercialization,” explained Vikas Khanna, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and corresponding author of the study. “The great thing about this project is it addresses full life cycle sustainability questions of new fuel sources before they come up later down the road.” 

Continue reading at University of Pittsburgh

Image: This is a schematic showing the stages modeled in the biomass-to-fuel life cycle assessment. This image first appeared in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science, Issue 5, 2017. (Image Credits: Vikas Khanna)

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