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KE-40.4120 Introduction to biorefineries and biofuels Assignment 10.

LCA of Biorefineries Arturo Salazar Martinez 338183

1. Why is this study important and relevant? I think that with every new technology, or promising advances and discoveries there are different stages in which first the theoretical potential for it is presented at laboratory scale, and second, a stage in which the true feasibility of the idea has to be carefully analyzed, studied, modeled and proven to all stakeholders. In the particular case of the article, I think it was important that the author considered sensible things such as N2O yields and always considered it of primal importance and not only as a CO2 equivalent. The article was of importance because it opened the eyes of the reader to the way the matter is broken down in its essential input and output parts and is geared towards making a decision of whether or not move forward with the implementation of a technology. 2. What is the functional unit of the study? (functional unit = quantified performance of a product system for use as a reference unit) The functional unit utilized in the study was the total amount of biomass treated per year (Ktdry
biomass treated/a)

in this case using a feedstock of switchgrass as the raw material.

3. Compare the key results of the biorefinery and fossil reference systems. What is the carbon footprint for the both systems? In the study, different CO2 sequestration factors and N2O yield were used to determine the total carbon footprint of the biorefinery, however, a table is presented as a standar measure considering a period of the initial 20 years and after twenty years against a conventional refinery reference. According to this table found in the study, in the first 20 years, the biorefinery saves 79% in CO2 equivalents compared to a conventional refinery, mostly aided by the non equilibrium status of the usable land to sequestrate carbon, and 55% after reaching equilibrium due to saturation of soil with CO2. 4. What kind of uncertainties did you find in the results of this study?

The most important uncertainty in the study was, in my opinion, the fact that it looks as if governments do not have yet a clear stand on Nitrogen emissions, which, although recognized and identified as potential harmful substances and given the status of greenhouse gases, it seems as if current policies focus on the carbon dioxide equivalent solely, giving a little bit of guessing room onto how a biorefinery really would alleviate the problem or maintain the status quo. The other big uncertainty is the effects of acidification and eutrophication caused in the soil, as well as the need for fertilizers and herbicides that can be of extreme concern for the balances. The other risk comes, usual from the monocropic culture that production of certain types of biomass tend to lean onto. No optimal profile as to what kind of species to grow to minimize and share risks is ever presented, giving the usual feeling of one wonder plant to fix it all. 5. Your own opinions: a. Could you present new research items on the basis of this study? Kim, S., & Dale, B. E. (2005). Life cycle assessment of various cropping systems utilized for producing biofuels: Bioethanol and biodiesel. Biomass and Bioenergy, 29(6), 426-439. Specifically tackling the different crops to be used in the production of the two transport fuels with the highest potential b. How did this study increase your environmental awareness on biofuels? It made me think for the first tie on the carbon sequestration potential of soil by the effect of plants with different fixation potential. It made me think in an optimal land management system that, under the basis of crop rotation, utilized the full potential of different plant species that, once reached their potential (e.g. 20 years), a different specie can be used to avoid plateau and keep the system with fixing capacity for carbon. It also made me think that, if at a stae of LCA, maybe the proper feasibility studies start being generated soon and a true working biorefinery that covers the full range and scope of a traditional refinery is set into place and some real data and figures can start coming into picture to determine whether or not is a suitable option for our future.