Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Mar 31, 2008 with no responses

LCA on Renewable Diesel

Thanks to a reader for this tip. Argonne National Laboratory has just published a Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) of biogasoline, biodiesel, green diesel, and petroleum diesel:

Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Greenhouse Gas Effects of Soybean-Derived Biodiesel and Renewable Fuels

I have just skimmed the report so far, but noted a few items of interest. Table 2-1 shows “Current and Planned Renewable Diesel Facilities.” If I had time, I would convert to a table, but I don’t:

Company Size (bpd) Location Online Date

ConocoPhillips 1,000 Ireland 2006
ConocoPhillips 12,000 United States To be determined
British Petroleum (BP) 1,900 Australia 2007
Neste 3,400 Finland 2007
Neste 3,400 Finland 2009
Petrobras 4 × 4,000 Brazil 2007
UOP/Eni 6,500 Italy 2009

In Table 3.3, they list the energy inputs into soybean farming from three different sources. The lowest input? Surprisingly, it came from Pimentel and Patzek.

Also, note this very important note on Page 4 that could throw all of these results out the window:

Note that this study does not consider potential land use changes. Increased CO2emissions from potential land use changes are an input option in GREET, but it was not used in the current analysis since reliable data on potential land use changes induced by soybean-based fuel production are not available. Furthermore, the main objective of this study is to concentrate on the process-related issues described above.

I presume this is in response to the recent Science articles that looked at land use changes from ethanol, and concluded the carbon footprint was worse than for gasoline. For soybeans, it is likely to be worse, because soybean farming is reportedly encroaching into the Amazon.

One thing that would have been a lot more reader-friendly would have been an actual energy balance equation. That is, for 1 BTU of energy input, X BTUs of energy is returned for the various fuels.

Off to Switzerland tomorrow until Friday evening, but I will post something if I get a chance.