Renewable fuels for advanced powertrains

Posted by Monica Moldovan
Full LCA available on the web
Publication year: 
Life Cycle Assessment of BTL-fuel production
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Was a critical review performed?: 
Is the study compliant with ISO 14044?: 
Sponsor name(s): 
European Commission
Sponsor type: 
Union, Federation
Volkswagen AG
Abengoa Bioenergia S.A.
Biomasse-Kraftwerk Güssing GmbH & Co. KG
Deutsche BP AG
Centre for Research and Technology Hellas
UET Umwelt- und Energietechnik Freiberg GmbH
Practitioner(s) type: 
Practitioner(s) type: 
Practitioner(s) type: 
Institut/Technical research center
Practitioner(s) type: 
Functional unit: 
The reference flow describes in a physical unit the final product or service delivered by the investigated product systems. It is the appropriate unit for analysing different products or production routes. The function of interest in this study is the supply of chemical bound energy to powertrains. Different types of liquid fuels can provide this function. The fuels are burned in the powertrain in order to be converted to mechanical energy that can be used for traction of vehicles. The reference flow for the comparison of BTL-fuel production routes is defined as the energy content expressed as the “lower heating value of the fuel delivered to the tank”.
Goal and scope of the summary: 
The goal of the LCA is to compare different production routes for BTL-fuels(FT-diesel and BTLDME)from an environmental point of view. The two production routes for ethanol have been excluded from the LCA because of lack of sufficient data for an analysis. The assessment includes all process stages from well-to-tank (WTT) for BTL-fuels. A well-to-wheel study has been performed in WP 5.4 The following questions are addressed in the LCA study: • Which production route for BTL-fuels, investigated within the RENEW project, is the one with the lowest environmental impacts? • If there is a choice between different biomass inputs, which one is the environmentally best for the different conversion processes? • What are the relative shares of contribution to the environmental impacts in different stages of production for the investigated fuels? • Where are the potentials for improvement? • How does the environmental profile of a certain fuel change if the scenario is changed (e.g. different efficiency in fuel production process; different external energy supply)?

In general, this study confirms the knowledge already gained in several LCA studies of biofuels. The type of biomass input and the conversion rate to the final fuel are quite important with respect to the environmental evaluation of all types of biofuels. Direct emissions of the conversion plant and transport issues are less relevant, as long as legal limits are maintained and biomass is not transported over very long distances of >150 km.

The European residue and energy crop biomass potential was assessed under the frame conditions of unaffected food, animal fodder and fibre production. This means
•that energy crops were considered to be grown only on surplus land, including fallow land and/or land released due to increased production efficiency,
•that the straw used e.g. for animal bedding and fodder was subtracted from the total production and
•that no wood needed for the wood processing industry is used for bioenergy generation.

The WtT LCA analysis includes the production of biomass, transports to the production plant, conversion processes and fuel distribution to the filling station.

The main conclusions which can be drawn from the well-to-tank LCA of BtL-production can be summarized as follows:
•The environmental performance of BtL production is determined by the biomass production, except for the category summer smog which is determined by the onversion process itself
•The estimated N2O emissions linked to fertilizer production and usage are contributing to the global warming potential of BtL production in the range of 12-35%.
•Environmental improvement potentials for BtL production are:
-Improved technology of biomass production with reduced fertilizer application and increased biomass yields.
-Increased energy efficiencies for the conversion processes.

Manufacturing impact(s): 
Manufacturing impact level: 

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