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Lifecycle analysis

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

FuelCell Energy pathway for hydrogen from digester gas has negative carbon intensity for CA LCFS

December 23, 2015

Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy (FCE) has applied for a prospective pathway for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) for the production of hydrogen fuel produced from biogas derived from the mesophilic anaerobic digestion of wastewater sludge at a publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

The biogas is cleaned, then internally reformed in an integrated hydrogen energy system (Tri-Gen DFC) that produces hydrogen fuel for transportation; electric power for plant operations and export; as well as thermal energy for plant use. Once the internal energy demands of the pathway have been met, any energy not utilized for process is considered to be surplus to the system boundary and is credited to the FCE pathway.

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Mercedes-Benz publishes lifecycle analysis of its first PHEV SUV: GLE 500 e

December 22, 2015

Mercedes-Benz has released the lifecycle analysis for its first plug-in hybrid SUV, the GLE 500 e 4MATIC (GLE 550e in the US). (Earlier post.)

The GLE 500 e 4MATIC burns 3.7–3.3 liters of fuel for every 100 km (63.5 to 71.2 mpge), equating to CO2 emissions of 84–78 g/km; electric power consumption is 16.7 kWh per 100 km. All-electric range is up to 30 km (18.6 miles), and all-electric top speed is 130 km/h (81 mph)—corresponding to the recommended speed on German autobahns.

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EPA: jatropha-based biofuels could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biodiesel under RFS

October 19, 2015

Based on its analysis of the production and transport components of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuel made from jatropha oil, the US EPA anticipates that biofuels produced from jatropha oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program if typical fuel production process technologies or process technologies with the same or lower GHG emissions are used. EPA has published its analysis in the Federal Register and is inviting comment.

Background. The RFS regulations lists three critical components of an approved fuel pathway: (1) Fuel type; (2) feedstock; and (3) production process. EPA uses lifecycle analysis to assess the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of a fuel throughout each stage of its production and use.

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Argonne analysis shows greenhouse gas emissions similar for shale, conventional oil

October 16, 2015

Shale oil production generates greenhouse gas emissions at levels similar to conventional crude oil production, according to a pair of new studies released by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

The research, conducted by Argonne researchers in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of California, Davis, analyzed the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas and the Bakken play mainly in North Dakota. Eagle Ford and Bakken are the second and third largest oil-producing shale formation regions in the United States, during the last three years. In 2014, Bakken and Eagle Ford together accounted for 54% of oil production and 19% of gas production among the top seven production regions. These are shale formations with low permeability and must be hydraulically fractured to produce oil and gas.

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Argonne study finds lightweight material substitution increases vehicle-cycle GHGs, but results in total life-cycle benefit

October 12, 2015

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has taken a closer look at vehicle-cycle (all processes related to vehicle manufacturing) and vehicle total life-cycle (vehicle-cycle plus fuel cycle—i.e., the use phase) impacts of substituting lightweight materials into vehicles.

In a study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that while material substitution can reduce vehicle weight, it often increases vehicle-cycle greenhouse gas emissions GHGs—for example, replacing steel with wrought aluminum, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CRFP), or magnesium increases the vehicle-cycle GHGs. However, lifetime fuel economy benefits often outweigh the vehicle-cycle, resulting in a net total life-cycle GHG benefit, they found. This is the case for steel replaced by wrought aluminum in all assumed cases, and for CFRP and magnesium except for high substitution ratio and low fuel reduction value.

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Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process

September 25, 2015

Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.

Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.

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EPRI-NRDC report finds widespread vehicle electrification and a cleaner grid could lead to substantial cuts in GHG by 2050

September 21, 2015

Widespread adoption of electric transportation, including electrification in the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and could modestly improve air quality, according to a new analysis released by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio”, is based on a projection that by 2050 electricity replaces traditional fuels for approximately half of light- and medium-duty transportation and a significant portion of non-road equipment. This study builds on the 2007 Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles by EPRI and NRDC (earlier post), which showed that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could contribute to reductions in national greenhouse gas emissions, while also leading to improved air quality. As with the earlier assessment, this study consists of two separate, but related, analyses: greenhouse gas emissions from 2015-2050, and air quality impacts in 2030.

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CMU analysis finds BEVs powered with natural gas-based electricity have about 40% of the lifecycle GHGs of a conventional gasoline vehicle

August 21, 2015

According to a new lifecycle analysis by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) powered with natural gas-based electricity achieves around an average 40% lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction when compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), either with a 30- or 60-km range, when powered by natural gas electricity, have the second lowest average emissions. Both BEVs and PHEVs provide large (more than 20%) emissions reductions compared to conventional gasoline, but none of them is a dominant strategy when compared to gasoline hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), the team found.

Gaseous hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have comparable life cycle emissions with conventional gasoline, offering limited reductions with 100-year global warming potential (GWP) yet leading to increases with 20-year GWP. Other liquid fuel pathways using natural gas—methanol, ethanol, and Fischer–Tropsch liquids—have larger GHG emissions than conventional gasoline even when carbon capture and storage technologies are available. The study is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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Study finds EV use-phase fuel savings exceed marginal increase in energy demand for WBG semiconductor manufacturing by 2 orders of magnitude

August 14, 2015

Power electronics semiconductors, which manage voltage and current, are a key technology for enabling improvements in “fuel economy” in electric vehicles. While conventional silicon-based semiconductor technology currently owns the plug-in vehicle power electronics market, emerging wide band gap (WBG) semiconductors offer significantly greater energy efficiency potential than silicon.

A team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University and the US Department of Energy (DOE) has now estimated the potential energy benefits in electric vehicles for two leading WBG semiconductor architectures—silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN)—and compared those with conventional silicon. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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EPA honors winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge; advanced biofuels

July 14, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the six 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners at a ceremony in Washington, DC. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community including industry, trade associations, academic institutions, and other government agencies.

For 2015, EPA announced a new award category for a green chemistry technology that has a “Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change.” The 2015 winners are Algenol; Lanzatech; Renmatix; Professor Eugene Y.-X. Chen of Colorado State University; Soltex; and Hybrid Coating Technologies.

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U Calgary study finds oil shale most energy intensive upgraded fuel followed by in-situ-produced bitumen from oil sands

July 10, 2015

A team at the University of Calgary (Canada) has compared the energy intensities and lifecycle GHG emissions of unconventional oils (oil sands and oil shale) alongside shale gas, coal, lignite, wood and conventional oil and gas. In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that lignite is the most GHG intensive primary fuel followed by oil shale. Oil shale is the most energy intensive fuel among upgraded primary fossil fuel options followed by in-situ-produced bitumen from oil sands.

Based on future world energy demand projections, they estimate that if growth of unconventional heavy oil production continues unabated, the incremental GHG emissions that results from replacing conventional oil with heavy oil would amount to 4–21 Gt-CO2eq over four decades (2010 by 2050). Taking this further, they estimated that the warming associated with the use of heavy oil amounts to this level of emissions could lead to about 0.002−0.009 °C increase in earth surface temperature, based on mid-21st century carbon-climate response model estimates.

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Researchers find Nissan LEAF creates less CO2 than Toyota Prius hybrid in west US and Texas, but more in N. Midwest

July 01, 2015

Regionally specific lifecycle CO2 emissions per mile traveled for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the US can vary widely based on grid emission factors (i.e., the “carbon footprint” of electricity production and use), according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Under some conditions, the battery electric Nissan LEAF can produce higher emissions than a Toyota Prius hybrid. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The team characterized the vehicle emissions across the United States under alternative assumptions for regional electricity emission factors, regional boundaries, and charging schemes. Among the findings were that:

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New lifecycle analysis of WTW GHG emissions of diesel and gasoline refined in US from Canadian oil sands crude

June 26, 2015

In a new, comprehensive study, a team from Argonne National Laboratory, Stanford University and UC Davis ITS has estimated the well-to-wheels (WTW) GHG emissions of US production of gasoline and diesel sourced from Canadian oil sands. The analysis uses an expanded system boundary including land disturbance-induced GHG emissions and also incorporates operating data that represent the average practices and technological advances of the oil sands industry since 2008. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers examined 27 oil sands projects, representing four major oil sands production pathways, including bitumen and synthetic crude oil (SCO) from both surface mining and in situ projects. Overall, they found that pathway-average GHG emissions from oil sands extraction, separation, and upgrading ranged from ∼6.1 to ∼27.3 g CO2 equivalents per megajoule (in lower heating value, CO2e/MJ). This range can be compared to ∼4.4 g CO2e/MJ for US conventional crude oil recovery.

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Up close and personal with Volkswagen’s e-Golf carbon offset project: Garcia River Forest

June 08, 2015

TCF, the manager of the Garcia River Forest Project, would like to enable its increasing number of redwood trees to reach the 1,000-year-old status of some of their neighbors, like this one. Click to enlarge.

In 2014, Volkswagen of America announced that starting with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions battery-electric 2015 e-Golf (earlier post), it would invest in projects to offset the carbon emissions created from the e-Golf on a full lifecycle basis: production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles (57,936 km) of driving.

Last week, Volkswagen provided a close-up look at one of the projects in which it is investing: the Garcia River Conservation-Based Forest Management Project, located in Mendocino County, California. This project, to which Volkswagen contributes along with companies such as UPS, repairs and preserves a ~24,000-acre native redwood forest, increasing carbon sequestration and storage, while also helping to restore the natural wildlife habitat. Emission reductions produced by the project are verified by an approved third party and registered with the Climate Action Reserve (Project ID CAR102).

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CMU study compares lifecycle GHGs of natural gas pathways for MHDVs; MD BEVs can deliver large reductions, but diesel hard to beat for Class 8

May 27, 2015

A study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers comparing life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from different natural gas pathways for medium and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) found that the GHG reduction potentials of the pathways vary sharply between non-Class 8 MHDVs (e.g., pick-up trucks, parcel delivery trucks, and box trucks), Class 8 transit buses, and Class 8 MHDVs (e.g., refuse trucks and tractor-trailers).

Battery-electric (BEVs), LPG, and CNG pathways could reduce life cycle GHG emissions for non-Class 8 MHDVs compared to the baseline petroleum fuels. Similarly, BEVs achieve emission reductions for transit buses. On the other hand, none of natural gas pathways, CNG, LNG, and F-T liquids, achieve any emission reductions per unit of freight-distance moved for Class 8 trucks compared to conventional diesel. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Lifecycle study finds fuel switching from diesel to natural gas could produce net climate damage absent reductions in CH4 emissions and improved vehicle efficiency

May 20, 2015

A study by a team from the Environmental Defense Fund, in collaboration with a colleague from the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University has found that while switching a heavy-duty truck fleet from diesel to natural gas has the potential to produce climate benefits, realizing that potential would require a combination of significant reductions well-to-wheels methane emissions (i.e., addressing leakage) and efficiency improvements in the natural gas vehicles themselves. Otherwise, fuel switching can produce net climate damages (more radiative forcing) for decades.

The results, published in an open access paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that policymakers wishing to address climate change should use caution before promoting fuel switching to natural gas, the authors concluded.

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U Toronto LCA suggests that with CNG as primary vehicle energy source, EVs best targeted at non-attainment areas

April 01, 2015

A team at the University of Toronto has examined the life cycle air emissions (climate change and human health) impact benefits and life cycle ownership costs of compressed natural gas (CNG) use directly in conventional vehicles (CV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and natural gas-derived electricity (NG-e) use in plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV), using a gasoline-fueled conventional vehicle as a reference.

Among their findings, published in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, are that policies should for the foreseeable future focus on the niche adoption of plug-in vehicles in non-attainment regions, as CNG vehicles are likely more cost-effective at providing overall life cycle air emissions impact benefits.

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Mercedes-Benz C 350 e PHEV can reduce full lifecycle CO2 emissions up to 41% compared to gasoline-engined C 250

March 18, 2015

Compared to the gasoline-engined C 250, the Mercedes-Benz C 350 e plug-in hybrid (earlier post) can reduce full life-cycle (manufacture, use over 200,000 km and recycling) CO2 emissions by some 26% (9.6 tonnes) when charging with the European electricity mix and by up to 41% (15.1 tonnes) when charging with renewable power.

The analysis is outlined in the plug-in’s newly release “Life Cycle” brochure, the results of which have also been confirmed by TÜV Süd, a branch of the German Technical Inspection Agency. The new plug-in hybrid satisfies all criteria of an environmentally responsible product development pursuant to ISO standard TR 14062.

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Study: natural gas heavy-duty trucking fleet could benefit economy, but has mixed environmental effects

February 20, 2015

Switching from diesel fuel to natural gas may hold advantages for the US heavy-duty trucking fleet, but more needs to be done to reach the full environmental benefits, according to a new white paper released by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, and Rice University.

The recent shale-driven emergence of natural gas as an abundant, inexpensive fuel in the US has raised the possibility of a “momentous shift” in the level of natural gas used in transportation. The cost advantage of natural gas over diesel fuel is particularly appealing for vehicles with a high intensity of travel and thus fuel use. In the paper, the team investigated the possibility that natural gas could be utilized to provide fuel cost savings, geographic supply diversity and environmental benefits for the heavy-duty trucking sector—and whether it can enable a transition to lower carbon transport fuels.

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New LCFS pathway applications show Abengoa cellulosic ethanol with CI of 29.52 and 23.36 g CO2e/MJ

February 06, 2015

California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted thirteen new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications to the LCFS public comments website. Among them are two pathways for cellulosic ethanol produced by Abengoa Bioenergy at its Hugoton, Kansas plant. One pathway uses corn stover for feedstock, the other uses wheat straw. The carbon intensity (CI) for corn stover cellulosic ethanol is estimated to be 29.52 g CO2e/MJ; for wheat straw ethanol, the CI is estimated to be 23.36 g CO2e/MJ. The 2015 LCFS compliance schedule target for gasoline and fuels used as a substitue for gasoline is 96.48 g CO2e/MJ.

Corn stover comprises the dried leaves, stalks, husk, and cobs left on the ground after the harvest of the corn crop. Wheat straw is the dried stalk of the wheat crop after the grain and chaff have been removed. The carbon intensities of both pathways include the GHG emissions impacts associated with the nutrients that must be applied to fields from which stover and straw have been removed to make up for the nutrients lost when residues are removed.

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California ARB issues feedstock-only pathway for camelina-based fuels under LCFS; zero ILUC emissions results in very low CI fuels

February 05, 2015

The California Air Resources Board has issued Sustainable Oils Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Global Clean Energy Holdings, a feedstock-only pathway for the production of camelina-based fuels under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The feedstock-only CI (carbon intensity) is 7.58 gCO2e/MJ.

A feedstock-only pathway allows a fuel producer interested in producing either biodiesel or renewable diesel from a camelina feedstock using Sustainable Oils’ proprietary seed varieties to combine the CI of this pathway for the production of a camelina oil feedstock with the carbon intensity components of the fuel producer’s specific fuel production and transportation processes. The feedstock-only pathway includes only the CI components for farming, agricultural chemicals, camelina transportation, and oil extraction.

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Study finds wide range in GHG intensities and production costs of cellulosic ethanol from corn stover, switchgrass and miscanthus

February 04, 2015

A team led by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed an integrated framework to determine and to compare greenhouse gas (GHG) intensities and production costs of cellulosic ethanol derived from corn stover, switchgrass, and miscanthus grown on high and low quality soils for three representative counties in the Eastern United States.

In their study, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology they found that—compared to gasoline—the GHG savings from miscanthus-based ethanol ranged between 130% and 156% whereas that from switchgrass ranged between 97% and 135%. The corresponding range for GHG savings with corn stover was 57% to 95% and marginally below the threshold of at least 60% for biofuels classified as cellulosic biofuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard.

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Thai researchers find waste chicken fat a good low-cost feedstock for renewable diesel

January 19, 2015

In a study investigating the effect of the water and free fatty acid (FFA) content in waste chicken fat from poultry processing plants on the production of renewable diesel (not biodiesel), researchers in Thailand have found that both higher FFA and water content improved the biohydrogenated diesel (BHD) yield.

In their paper, published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they reported that the presence of water accelerated the breakdown of the triglyceride molecules into FFAs, while the presence of more FFAs also increased yield. Therefore, they concluded, waste chicken fat from food industries containing a high degree of FFAs and water content can be used as a low-cost feedstock for renewable diesel production without requiring a pretreatment process.

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New version of Argonne lifecycle model for water footprint of biofuels now includes cellulosic feedstocks

January 16, 2015

Argonne National Laboratory released the newest version (3.0) of the online tool Water Assessment for Transportation Energy Resources (WATER) this week. This latest version of WATER allows, for the first time, biofuels manufacturers to analyze water consumption associated with use of cellulosic feedstocks such as residue left from lumber production and other wood-based resources. The new tool also provides analysis down to the county level in the US for the first time.

WATER adopts a water footprint methodology, and contains extensive climate, land use, water resource, and process water data. Version 3.0 of WATER thus can help biofuels developers gain a detailed understanding of water consumption of various types of feedstocks, aiding development of sustainable fuels that will reduce impact on limited water resources.

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ASG life-cycle study finds aluminum Ford F-150 “Best Full-size Truck of 2015” from environmental and economic perspective

January 14, 2015

According to the latest annual life-cycle study from the Automotive Science Group (ASG), the all-new lightweight aluminum 2015 Ford F-150 leads the full-size light-duty truck competition in all environmental and economic performance areas; accordingly, ASG selected the F-150 as its Best Full-size Truck of 2015. According to ASG and the principles of ecological economics, environmental and economic considerations are equally important in determining a vehicle’s overall value. ASG’s proprietary vehicle rating platform—the Automotive Performance Index—analyzes both performance areas for a comprehensive vehicle assessment. ASG’s 2015 Study assessed 225 light-duty truck models.

Although the gasoline-fueled F-150 with 2.7L EcoBoost delivers 22 mpg (10.68 l/100 km) combined—1 mpg shy of RAM’s EcoDiesel—the F-150’s life-cycle environmental and economic performance “leaves RAM and others in the dust,” according to ASG. According to ASG, the 2015 F-150 holds the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint and lowest cost of ownership of any full-size truck in the North American market today. Ford has produced a lightweight aluminum-intensive truck that costs less and performs better than its conventional truck counterparts over the vehicle’s life-cycle, says Colby Self, managing director of ASG.

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