A well-to-wheel (WTW) life cycle assessment (LCA) model is developed to evaluate the environmental profile of producing liquid transportation fuels via fast pyrolysis of perennial grasses: switchgrass and miscanthus. The framework established in this study consists of (1) an agricultural model used to determine biomass growth rates, agrochemical application rates, and other key parameters in the production of miscanthus and switchgrass biofeedstock; (2) an ASPEN model utilized to simulate thermochemical conversion via fast pyrolysis and catalytic upgrading of bio-oil to renewable transportation fuel. Monte Carlo analysis is performed to determine statistical bounds for key sustainability and performance measures including life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and Energy Return on Investment (EROI). The results of this work reveal that the EROI and GHG emissions (gCO2e/MJ-fuel) for fast pyrolysis derived fuels range from 1.52 to 2.56 and 22.5 to 61.0 respectively, over the host of scenarios evaluated. Further analysis reveals that the energetic performance and GHG reduction potential of fast pyrolysis-derived fuels are highly sensitive to the choice of coproduct scenario and LCA allocation scheme, and in select cases can change the life cycle carbon balance from meeting to exceeding the renewable fuel standard emissions reduction threshold for cellulosic biofuels.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry