Life Cycle Analysis

Biomass

Biomass includes woody or herbaceous materials from forests, cultivated crops, or agricultural residue. Biomass absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows; this carbon dioxide is released when the biomass is combusted. Biomass can be used as a feedstock to co-fired power plants that consume coal and biomass.


Co-firing Biomass to Reduce the Environmental Footprint of Coal-fired Heat and Power: A Good Strategy?
The use of biomass as a feedstock for co-fired electricity generation and heat production is attractive, because it offers renewable energy derived from a domestically available feedstock, and the potential for reductions in greenhouse gases and other environmental impacts. Drivers for the adoption of biomass-based power and heat include the anticipation of forthcoming greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation, compatibility with existing industrial processes and electricity infrastructure, and other potential State or Federal policies. This analysis is the result of collaboration between the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Risk Management Research Laboratory. The overarching objective of this work is to gain a better understanding of the potential human health and environmental outcomes associated with the use of biomass in electricity generation and combined heat and power operations. Co-firing biomass with coal does reduce GHG emissions, but it can increase some human health and ecosystem impacts. The specific type of biomass and the location where it is produced are important, making it difficult to generalize the results in all impact categories. In scenarios where steam is cogenerated with electricity, co-product management methods (allocation and displacement) can yield different results.
Authors: Tim Skone, Greg Schivley, Greg Cooney, Matt Jamieson, James Littlefield, Joe Marriott
Date: October, 2013

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Contribution of Biomass to the LCI of Cofiring Power
Biomass includes agricultural residues, forest thinnings, and dedicated energy crops. Life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions can be accomplished with coal and biomass co-firing only if biomass is produced with high yield rates and there are miniminal changes to land use. Increasing power plant efficiency or using post-combustion carbon dioxide capture and sequestration can lead to larger GHG reductions than co-firing biomass with coal.
Authors: Tim Skone, Joe Marriott, PhD
Date: September, 2012

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Role of Alternative Energy Sources: Pulverized Coal and Biomass Co-firing Technology Assessment
Co-firing is seen as a way of reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of existing coal-fired power plants, but the incorporation of biomass into an existing coal-fired system increases the complexity of feedstock acquisition. Further, the acquisition of biomass has unique GHG burdens that offset, in part, the GHG reductions from the displacement of coal with biomass. Due to the higher feedstock prices of biomass, the co-firing of biomass at a 10 percent share of feedstock energy can increase the cost of electricity by as much as 31 percent. Other risks include regulatory uncertainty; without policies that encourage the use of renewable feedstocks, there is no incentive for producers to invest in co-fired systems.
Authors: Tim Skone, James Littlefield, Robert Eckard, Greg Cooney, Robert Wallace, Joe Marriott, PhD
Date: August, 2012

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Calculating Uncertainty in Biomass Emissions
The Calculating Uncertainty in Biomass Emissions model, version 2.0 (CUBE 2.0) determines the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of biomass feedstocks from planting the biomass to delivery to the bioenergy plant gate. It includes emissions associated with feedstock production, transportation, and processing.  Model results and implications will be discussed in a forthcoming paper by these same authors and are therefore not presented in this document.
Authors: Tim Skone, Aimee E. Curtright, Henry H. Willis, David R. Johnson, David S. Ortiz, Nicholas Burger, Constantine Samaras, Aviva Litovitz, James McGee
Date: November, 2011

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Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Analysis of Advanced Jet Propulsion Fuels: Fischer Tropsch Based SPK-1 Case Study
In response to the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), NETL conducted a LCA (LCA) of 10 fuel production pathways using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. These pathways use varying combinations of coal and swithgrass feedstocks and two options for carbon managment (sequestration or enhanced oil recovery). Only greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are inventoried. Comparative analysis of the results demonstrate that higher percentages of biomass result in lower life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when using switchgrass. The choice of carbon management strategy has an effect on the results.
Authors: Tim Skone
Date: September, 2011

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LCA: Ethanol from Biomass
This is a life cycle environmental and cost analysis of ethanol using starch and cellulosic feedstocks. It provides a life cycle comparison of three tiers of technology, three types of biomass feedstocks, and two fuel-blending compositions for a total of 18 distinct pathways. When ethanol is blended with gasoline at an 85/15 ratio between ethanol and gasoline, the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are highly variable due to different feedstock types and ethanol production technologies. The biochemical chemical conversion of cellulosic feedstocks to ethanol has the lowest GHG emissions in this analysis, because of the energy recovered at the ethanol plant.
Authors: Tim Skone, James Littlefield, Gurbakhash Bhander, Tom Davis, Robert Eckard, John Haslbeck, Maura Nippert, Robert Wallace, Joe Marriott, PhD
Date: August, 2011

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Progress Update: Interagency Workgroup on Life Cycle GHG Emissions of Alternative Aviation Fuels
This presentation covers efforts to examine life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of alternative aviation fuels, as led by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory with the support of a multi-disciplinary group of federal, industrial, academic institutions. The primary objective of the workgroup is to develop a set of standard guidance on how to evaluate the life cycle GHG footprint of various alternative jet fuel production pathways using a wide-range of feedstock sources. Application of the guidelines can be used by fuel suppliers, military, and commercial airlines to assess the environmental preferability of a specific fuel production pathway when compared to conventional jet fuel. Workgroup activity status and plans for testing on specific case studies are also discussed.
Authors: Tim Skone
Date: February, 2010

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Calculating Uncertainty in Biomass Emissions
The Calculating Uncertainty in Biomass Emissions model, version 1.0 (CUBE 1.0) determines the life cycle GHG emissions of biomass feedstocks from planting the biomass to delivery to the bioenergy plant gate ("farm-to-gate"). Included are emissions associated with feedstock production, transportation, and processing. The feedstocks in CUBE 1.0 include three dedicated energy crops (corn grain, switchgrass, and mixed prairie biomass) and two biomass residues (forest residue and mill residue). The report describes model layout and function. A free Analytica player for viewing and using this model can be downloaded from Lumina Decision Systems at: http://www.lumina.com/ana/player.htm.
Authors: Tim Skone, Aimee E. Curtright, Henry H. Willis, David R. Johnson, David S. Ortiz, Nicholas Burger,Constantine Samaras
Date: January, 2010

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Framework and Guidance for Estimating Greenhouse Gas Footprints of Aviation Fuels
Federal policies, such as those outlined in Section 526 of EISA 2007, cause federal agencies to institute enforceable guidelines for procuring low carbon alternative fuels. This report provides guidance on how to estimate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in aviation applications. This guidance is based on collaboration among the U.S. Air Force, government agencies, universities, and companies that are actively engaged in assessing GHG emissions from transportation fuels.
Authors: Chris Nichols, David T. Allen, Charles Allport, Kristopher Atkins, Joyce S. Cooper, Robert M. Dilmore, Laura C. Drauker, Kenneth E. Eickmann, Jeffrey C. Gillen, Warren Gillette, W. M. Griffin, William E. Harrison III, James I. Hileman, John R. Ingham, Fred A. Kimler III, Aaron Levy, Cynthia F. Murphy, Michael J. O'Donnell, David Pamplin, Greg Schively, Tim Skone, Shannon M. Strank, Russell W. Stratton, Philip H. Taylor, Valerie M. Thomas, Michael Q. Wang, Thomas Zidow
Date: April, 2009

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Balancing Climate Change, Energy Security, and Economic Sustainability: A Life Cycle Comparison of Diesel Fuel from Crude Oil and Domestic Coal and Biomass Resources
Brief 4-page summary of the near-term benefits of co-gasifying U.S. coal and biomass resources to produce FT diesel; a domestic transportation fuel. The paper summarizes the climate change, energy security, and economic benefits when compared to conventional diesel fuel production from domestic and imported crude oil.
Authors: Chris Nichols, Tim Skone, Kristin Gerdes, Tom Tarka, John Wimer
Date: April, 2009

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