Analysis of the Global Warming Potential of Biogenic CO₂ Emission in Life Cycle Assessments

Liu, Weiguo ; Zhang, Zhonghui ; Xie, Xinfeng ; Yu, Zhen ; Von Gadow, Klaus ; Xu, Junming ; Zhao, Shanshan ; Yang, Yuchun (2017)

CITATION: Liu, W., et al. 2017. Analysis of the Global Warming Potential of Biogenic CO₂ Emission in Life Cycle Assessments. Scientific Reports, 7:39857, doi:10.1038/srep39857.

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Biomass is generally believed to be carbon neutral. However, recent studies have challenged the carbon neutrality hypothesis by introducing metric indicators to assess the global warming potential of biogenic CO2 (GWPbio). In this study we calculated the GWPbio factors using a forest growth model and radiative forcing effects with a time horizon of 100 years and applied the factors to five life cycle assessment (LCA) case studies of bioproducts. The forest carbon change was also accounted for in the LCA studies. GWPbio factors ranged from 0.13–0.32, indicating that biomass could be an attractive energy resource when compared with fossil fuels. As expected, short rotation and fast-growing biomass plantations produced low GWPbio. Long-lived wood products also allowed more regrowth of biomass to be accounted as absorption of the CO2 emission from biomass combustion. The LCA case studies showed that the total life cycle GHG emissions were closely related to GWPbio and energy conversion efficiency. By considering the GWPbio factors and the forest carbon change, the production of ethanol and bio-power appeared to have higher GHG emissions than petroleum-derived diesel at the highest GWPbio.

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