Molasses for ethanol: the economic and environmental impacts of a new pathway for the lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis of sugarcane ethanol

TitleMolasses for ethanol: the economic and environmental impacts of a new pathway for the lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis of sugarcane ethanol
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsGopal A, Kammen DM
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume4
Issue4
Pagination044005
Date Published12/2009
Keywordsbiofuels, ethanol, life cycle assessment
Abstract

Many biofuel standards, including California’s recently adopted Low Carbon Fuel Standard consider just one feedstock from one supplying country for the production of sugarcane ethanol; fresh mill-pressed cane juice from a Brazilian factory. While cane juice is the dominant feedstock for ethanol in most Brazilian factories, a large number of producers in Indonesia, India, the Caribbean, including a significant number in Brazil, manufacture most of their ethanol from molasses, a low-value co-product of raw sugar. Several producers in these countries have the capacity to export ethanol to California but the GREET model, which is the LCA model of choice for most biofuel regulators including California, does not currently include this production pathway. We develop a modification to GREET to account for this pathway. We use the upstream and process lifecycle results of the existing GREET model for Brazilian ethanol to derive lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for ethanol manufactured from any combination of molasses and fresh cane juice. We find that ethanol manufactured with only molasses as a feedstock with all other processes and inputs identical to the average Brazilian mill has a lifecycle GHG rating of 15.1 gCO2-eq/MJ, which is significantly lower than the current California-GREET assigned rating of 26.6 gCO2-eq/MJ. Our model can be applied at any level of granulation from the individual factory to an industry-wide average. We examine some ways in which current sugarcane producers could inaccurately claim this molasses credit. We discuss methods to address this in regulation.

URLhttp://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/4/4/044005
DOI10.1088/1748-9326/4/4/044005
Short TitleEnviron. Res. Lett.
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