New Publication – Workshop report: Biofuels Sustainability – Focus on Lifecycle Analysis (LCA)

Nov 2019

This report summarizes the main conclusions of a joint workshop of IEA Bioenergy Task 39 and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra (Italy), 16-17 May 2019.

The workshop discussed aspects related to the commercialisation of biofuels; spanning from certification schemes for biofuels, feedstock availability, advanced (drop-in) biofuel developments, and lifecycle methodological aspects of biofuel greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions’ performance. It also clarified some of the principle opportunities and barriers for the deployment of sustainable biofuels at commercial scale while at the same time ensuring the uptake of sustainable biofuels is based on robust LCAs of emissions.

Some conclusions from the expert discussions:

  • Prospective LCA (bringing in the time dimension) is particularly important for emerging technologies.
  • LCA inventories are associated with uncertainties and results vary with location and allocation choices. The main parameters which cause large deviations in LCA are soil, land use change (LUC), global warming potential (GWP) factors, and questions over allocation methods for CO2 sources e.g. for so-called “electro-fuels”. Methodological consistency is important when considering direct and indirect emissions.
  • Sustainability certification varies between different jurisdictions and is increasingly characterised by a diversity of involved actors spanning from the energy to the chemical, food & feed sectors.
  • Energy crops don’t only provide feedstocks for biofuels but can also have potential benefits with respect to soil carbon.
  • Concerns about sustainability seem to be slowing the development of the bio-based economy. However, the societal costs of postponing action (and continuing with fossil resources) are high.
  • Bio-economy strategies and policies need to be based on regional specificities to gain public acceptance.
  • Long-term strategies are needed to provide a clear investment horizon for industrial operators by securing volumes and qualities of feedstocks. A database on traceability is deemed critical by industry operators to minimize fraud.
  • Upgrading bio-feedstocks for co-processing in existing facilities is raising a lot of interest.
  • For advanced fuels, cost reduction of production systems remains a chief concern.

Workshop report:

Workshop agenda: