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Carbon Footprint as a Single Indicator in Energy Systems: The Case of Biofuels and CO2 Capture Technologies

  • Diego IribarrenEmail author
  • Javier Dufour
Chapter
Part of the EcoProduction book series (ECOPROD)

Abstract

The energy sector is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, in both the transport and electricity subsectors. Taking into account the current context of the energy sector, relevant case studies concerning biofuels and CO2 capture in power plants are defined and inventoried to evaluate their carbon footprints; the suitability of these carbon footprints as single indicators is then discussed. The methodological framework proposed in the Life Cycle Assessment standards is followed. The fuel systems evaluated involve second-generation biofuels from short-rotation poplar biomass: (i) synthetic fuels (gasoline and diesel) produced via biomass pyrolysis and bio-oil upgrading and (ii) hydrogen produced via biomass gasification and biosyngas processing. Four case studies of coal power plants with CO2 capture technology are also evaluated, including post-combustion CO2 recovery through chemical absorption, membrane separation, cryogenic fractionation, and pressure swing adsorption. Inventory data for the analysis are based on process simulation, robust databases, and scientific literature. The carbon footprints calculated show a promising life-cycle global warming performance of the energy products evaluated. However, conflicting results are found when evaluating other impact categories. Therefore, decisions and recommendations based solely on carbon footprints only capture a partial picture of the environmental performance, although different levels of risk are associated with the use of carbon footprints as single indicators, depending on the type of systems and products under evaluation. The use of multi-indicator approaches is recommended because the inclusion of additional impact categories leads to a more comprehensive evaluation of the environmental performance of energy product systems, thus facilitating a more sensible decision-making process oriented towards environmental sustainability.

Keywords

Biofuel Carbon dioxide capture Carbon footprint Energy Life cycle assessment Power 

Abbreviations

ADP

Abiotic depletion potential

AP

Acidification potential

CCS

CO2 capture and storage

CCU

CO2 capture and utilization

CED

Cumulative non-renewable energy demand

CF

Carbon footprinting

CFB

Circulating fluidized bed

CO2 eq

Carbon dioxide equivalent

DEA

Data envelopment analysis

EEA

European Environment Agency

EP

Eutrophication potential

FU

Functional unit

GCC

Gas and char combustor

GHG

Greenhouse gas

GWP

Global warming impact potential

IPCC

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

ISO

International Organization for Standardization

LCA

Life cycle assessment

LCI

Life cycle inventory analysis

LCIA

Life cycle impact assessment

MEA

Monoethanolamine

ODP

Ozone layer depletion potential

PAS

Publicly available specification

POFP

Photochemical oxidant formation potential

PSA

Pressure swing adsorption

RED

Renewable energy directive

SMR

Steam methane reforming

TS

Technical specification

WGS

Water-gas shift

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research has been supported by the Regional Government of Madrid (S2009/ENE-1743) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (CTQ2011-28216-C02-02 and ENE2011-29643-C02-01). The authors would like to thank Jens F. Peters and Ana Susmozas for valuable scientific exchange.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Systems Analysis UnitInstituto IMDEA EnergíaMóstolesSpain
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Energy Technology, ESCETRey Juan Carlos UniversityMóstolesSpain

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