Prioritization of Bioethanol Production Systems from Agricultural and Waste Agricultural Biomass Using Multi-criteria Decision Making

  • Sahar SafarianEmail author
  • Sorena Sattari
  • Runar Unnthorsson
  • Zeinab Hamidzadeh
Original Paper


In this paper, the problem of sustainability assessment of various types of bioethanol plants is addressed. This represents the first evaluation of 30 bioethanol systems fed by agricultural and waste agricultural biomass in Iran, using multi-criteria decision analysis relying on seven sustainability criteria (total cost, benefit, fossil energy ratio, energy use efficiency, greenhouse gas [GHG] emission, land use, and production yield) and five representative decision-maker preference scenarios. The results show that most agricultural systems are not feasible in terms of economics, energy, and the environment. However, agricultural wastes are attractive feedstocks for bioethanol production, since they are cost-effective, renewable, and abundant. The results across several preference scenarios for waste crops indicate that producing bioethanol from sugarcane currently scores highest in sustainability for Iran. Barley and strawberry have the lowest ranks in most scenarios due to their high GHG emissions and low production yield. In addition to sugarcane, potato and sugar beet are the most beneficial from the energy and environmental perspectives. Pear and apple also have high-middle status among the considered scenarios for Iran. These results suggest that design policies promoting the use of agricultural wastes for energy production may appeal to decision makers with a diverse range of economic, environmental, and energy preferences. Finally, this type of research can provide arguments to support decisions tending toward a more structured and strategic approach in implementing sustainable energy policies.


Sustainability assessment Multi-criteria decision analysis Bioethanol supply Agricultural biomasses Agricultural wastes 

List of Symbols


Biomass production level


Benefit per cost


Bioethanol production level


Fixed cost ($)


Total production cost ($)


Variable cost ($)




Bioethanol demand (kg)


Sugar production level


Energy use efficiency


Fossil energy ratio


Free fatty acid


Total greenhouse gas emission (kg CO2eq)


Harvesting coefficient


Different inputs


Levels in bioethanol production chain


Land use (ha)


Natural gas




Transport level


Material flow


Different kinds of biomasses




Different kinds of by-products


Specific chemical biocide consumption (kg/ha)


Energy coefficient


GHG emission factor




Sugar content liquid


Weight percent


Yield of biomass kind of b (ton/ha)


Technological efficiency


Ratio of by-product to the main product




Loss percent


Availability percent of waste crops


Waste percent of different crops


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sahar Safarian
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sorena Sattari
    • 3
  • Runar Unnthorsson
    • 1
  • Zeinab Hamidzadeh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer ScienceUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  2. 2.Scientific and Technological Department of Presidential OfficeTehranIran
  3. 3.Energy Engineering DepartmentSharif University of TechnologyTehranIran

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