Environmental Impacts and Limitations of Third‐Generation Biobutanol: Life Cycle Assessment of N‐Butanol Produced by Genetically Engineered Cyanobacteria

12 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020

See all articles by Astrid Nilsson

Astrid Nilsson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Kiyan Shabestary

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Miguel Brandão

Massey University

Elton P. Hudson

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Date Written: February 2020

Abstract

Photosynthetic cyanobacteria have attracted interest as production organisms for third‐generation biofuels, where sunlight and CO are used by microbes directly to synthesize fuel molecules. A particularly suitable biofuel is n‐butanol, and there have been several laboratory reports of genetically engineered photosynthetic cyanobacteria capable of synthesizing and secreting n‐butanol. This work evaluates the environmental impacts and cumulative energy demand (CED) of cyanobacteria‐produced n‐butanol through a cradle‐to‐grave consequential life cycle assessment (LCA). A hypothetical production plant in northern Sweden (area 1 ha, producing 5–85 m3 n‐butanol per year) was considered, and a range of cultivation formats and cellular productivity scenarios assessed. Depending on the scenario, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) ranged from 16.9 to 58.6 gCOeq/MJ and the CED from 3.8 to 13 MJ/MJ. Only with the assumption of a nearby paper mill to supply waste sources for heat and CO was the sustainability requirement of at least 60% GHGe savings compared to fossil fuels reached, though placement in northern Sweden reduced energy needed for reactor cooling. A high CED in all scenarios shows that significant metabolic engineering is necessary, such as a carbon partitioning of >90% to n‐butanol, as well as improved light utilization, to begin to displace fossil fuels or even first‐ and second‐generation bioethanol.

Keywords: biofuel, butanol, cyanobacteria, industrial ecology, LCA, metabolic engineering

Suggested Citation

Nilsson, Astrid and Shabestary, Kiyan and Brandão, Miguel and Hudson, Elton P., Environmental Impacts and Limitations of Third‐Generation Biobutanol: Life Cycle Assessment of N‐Butanol Produced by Genetically Engineered Cyanobacteria (February 2020). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 24, Issue 1, pp. 205-216, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3608286 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12843

Astrid Nilsson (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Kiyan Shabestary

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Miguel Brandão

Massey University

Elton P. Hudson

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) ( email )

Lindstedtsvägen 30-100 44
Stockholm, SE-100 44
Sweden

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