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Research and development challenges for Swedish biofuel actors – three illustrative examples: Improvement potential discussed in the context of Well-to-Tank analyses
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE), Chemical Engineering and Technology, Energy Processes.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0635-7372
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2010 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Currently biofuels have strong political support, both in the EU and Sweden. The EU has, for example, set a target for the use of renewable fuels in the transportation sector stating that all EU member states should use 10% renewable fuels for transport by 2020. Fulfilling this ambition will lead to an enormous market for biofuels during the coming decade. To avoid increasing production of biofuels based on agriculture crops that require considerable use of arable area, focus is now to move towards more advanced second generation (2G) biofuels that can be produced from biomass feedstocks associated with a more efficient land use. Climate benefits and greenhouse gas (GHG) balances are aspects often discussed in conjunction with sustainability and biofuels. The total GHG emissions associated with production and usage of biofuels depend on the entire fuel production chain, mainly the agriculture or forestry feedstock systems and the manufacturing process. To compare different biofuel production pathways it is essential to conduct an environmental assessment using the well-to-tank (WTT) analysis methodology. In Sweden the conditions for biomass production are favourable and we have promising second generation biofuels technologies that are currently in the demonstration phase. In this study we have chosen to focus on cellulose based ethanol, methane from gasification of solid wood as well as DME from gasification of black liquor, with the purpose of identifying research and development potentials that may result in improvements in the WTT emission values. The main objective of this study is thus to identify research and development challenges for Swedish biofuel actors based on literature studies as well as discussions with the the researchers themselves. We have also discussed improvement potentials for the agriculture and forestry part of the WTT chain. The aim of this study is to, in the context of WTT analyses, (i) increase knowledge about the complexity of biofuel production, (ii) identify and discuss improvement potentials, regarding energy efficiency and GHG emissions, for three biofuel production cases, as well as (iii) identify and discuss improvement potentials regarding biomass supply, including agriculture/forestry. The scope of the study is limited to discussing the technologies, system aspects and climate impacts associated with the production stage. Aspects such as the influence on biodiversity and other environmental and social parameters fall beyond the scope of this study. We find that improvement potentials for emissions reductions within the agriculture/forestry part of the WTT chain include changing the use of diesel to low-CO2-emitting fuels, changing to more fuel-efficient tractors, more efficient cultivation and manufacture of fertilizers (commercial nitrogen fertilizer can be produced in plants which have nitrous oxide gas cleaning) as well as improved fertilization strategies (more precise nitrogen application during the cropping season). Furthermore, the cultivation of annual feedstock crops could be avoided on land rich in carbon, such as peat soils and new agriculture systems could be introduced that lower the demand for ploughing and harrowing. Other options for improving the WTT emission values includes introducing new types of crops, such as wheat with higher content of starch or willow with a higher content of cellulose. From the case study on lignocellulosic ethanol we find that 2G ethanol, with co-production of biogas, electricity, heat and/or wood pellet, has a promising role to play in the development of sustainable biofuel production systems. Depending on available raw materials, heat sinks, demand for biogas as vehicle fuel and existing 1G ethanol plants suitable for integration, 2G ethanol production systems may be designed differently to optimize the economic conditions and maximize profitability. However, the complexity connected to the development of the most optimal production systems require improved knowledge and involvement of several actors from different competence areas, such as chemical and biochemical engineering, process design and integration and energy and environmental systems analysis, which may be a potential barrier.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg, 2010. , 134 p.
National Category
Engineering and Technology Chemical Engineering Chemical Process Engineering Bioenergy
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-93418OAI: diva2:515813

part of abstract. QC 20120523

Available from: 2012-04-16 Created: 2012-04-16 Last updated: 2012-11-16Bibliographically approved

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Alvfors, PerKusar, HenrikMagnusson, MimmiSjöström, Krister
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