Annual Basis Carbon (ABC) Analysis of Biofuel Production at the Facility Level

39 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2015

See all articles by John DeCicco

John DeCicco

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Rashmi Krishnan

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Date Written: August 12, 2015

Abstract

Liquid biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are considered important renewable replacements for petroleum fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Biomass-based energy carriers are traditionally treated as inherently carbon neutral, so that only the fossil-based carbon dioxide (CO2) and other non-CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with their production are counted when assessing their global warming impact. This accounting convention is embedded by construction in lifecycle assessment (LCA) models, which on a direct basis (i.e., excluding economically induced effects) often find that biofuels from efficient industrial agricultural production systems reduce GHG emissions relative to their fossil fuel counterparts. LCA modeling can be subjected to an independent empirical test that bounds a biofuel's potential GHG reduction within the dynamics of the terrestrial carbon cycle. Such a test can be performed using annual basis carbon (ABC) accounting, which entails spatially and temporally explicit analysis of the direct GHG exchanges between the atmosphere and a physical vehicle-fuel system. An ABC case study of a corn ethanol biorefinery and the farmland that supplies it shows that using the ethanol it produced instead of gasoline provided no significant reduction in GHG emissions, in contrast to an LCA result that found a 40% GHG reduction for the same facility. ABC accounting reveals that the renewable ethanol so produced was not carbon neutral when substituting for gasoline, and sensitivity analysis indicates that its net GHG emissions impacts are likely to higher than those of petroleum gasoline in practice.

Suggested Citation

DeCicco, John and Krishnan, Rashmi, Annual Basis Carbon (ABC) Analysis of Biofuel Production at the Facility Level (August 12, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2643155 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2643155

John DeCicco (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

Energy Institute
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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HOME PAGE: http://energy.umich.edu/faculty/john-m-decicco

Rashmi Krishnan

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

110 Tappan Hall
855 S. University Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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