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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.]

Stanford study finds energy requirements of super-giant oilfields can significantly increase over time

July 17, 2017

A new study finds that as some of the world’s largest oilfields age, the energy required to keep them operating can rise dramatically even as the amount of petroleum they produce drops. Failing to take the changing energy requirements of oilfields into account can cause oilfield managers or policymakers to underestimate the true climate impacts, Stanford scientists warn.

Mohammad Masnadi and Adam Brandt used decades-long time-series data from twenty-five globally significant oil fields (>1 billion barrels ultimate recovery) to model greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil production as a function of time.Depletion requires increased energy expenditures in drilling, oil recovery, and oil processing. They found that volumetric oil production declines with depletion, but that this depletion is accompanied by significant growth—in some cases more than tenfold—in per-MJ GHG emissions.

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GLBRC research review concludes cellulosic biofuels can benefit the environment if managed correctly

June 30, 2017

Cellulosic biofuels could provide an environmentally sustainable way of meeting energy needs—but with a few important caveats, according to a new review of research by a team from the US Department of Energy-funded Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). Their paper is published in the journal Science.

Although not yet a market force, cellulosic biofuels are routinely factored into future climate mitigation scenarios because of their potential to both displace petroleum use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Those benefits, however, are complicated by the need for vast amounts of land to produce cellulosic biofuels on a large scale.

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Study projects emission impacts of inexpensive, efficient EVs: 36% further reduction in LDV GHG by 2050, or 9% economy-wide

June 07, 2017

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder projects the emission impacts of the widespread introduction of inexpensive and efficient electric vehicles into the US light duty vehicle (LDV) sector. The work is reported in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Under their optimistic scenario (OPT)—which is based on the assumption that EVs are market-competitive with gasoline vehicles, in particular after 2025—they find 15% and 47% adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in 2030 and 2050, respectively. Compared to the reference case, in which gasoline vehicles (ICEVs) remain dominant through 2050 (BAU), OPT results in 16% and 36% reductions in LDV greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 2030 and 2050, respectively, corresponding to 5% and 9% reductions in economy-wide emissions.

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GM earns EPA ENERGY STAR Award for Environmental Leadership; energy use per vehicle in manufacturing down 10% YoY

April 12, 2017

General Motors earned a 2017 EPA ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year — Sustained Excellence award for continued leadership in protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. GM’s commitment to reducing energy intensity saved $73 million in energy costs last year and avoided 388,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to the electricity use of 57,000 US homes.

In the US, GM reduced energy use at its manufacturing facilities by 10% on a per-vehicle basis in 2016 compared to the previous year. Additional achievements include:

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ICCT: alternative jet fuels unlikely to deliver the bulk of GHG emission reductions needed by aviation

April 10, 2017

A new study by a team at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has concluded that the large-scale deployment of alternative jet fuels (AJFs) and the ability of the aviation sector to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through their use will be capped by a number of factors: the sustainability and availability of feedstock; the production cost; and the extent to which those fuels will be commercialized.

Based on the study, the ICCT team suggests that while the use of AJFs can deliver some GHG savings, it is unlikely that AJF alone can meet the bulk of the GHG reductions projected to be needed. The authors recommended that ICAO stipulate a GHG reduction threshold in order for a given AJF to qualify under CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), and to include indirect emissions in its life-cycle accounting.

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TÜV lifecycle analysis shows Mercedes-Benz E 350 e PHEV cuts GHG footprint 44% compared to E 350 CGI; equivalent NOx

February 15, 2017

The Mercedes-Benz E 350 e plug-in hybrid (earlier post) has successfully completed the TÜV validation audit and received the Environmental Certificate. This award is based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in which the independent experts at TÜV Süd (the German Technical Inspection Authority) comprehensively assess the environmental impact of the passenger car over its entire life cycle.

The Mercedes-Benz E 350 e is rated with an NEDC fuel consumption of 2.1 l/100 km (112 mpg US), and electric energy consumption (NEDC) of 11.5 kWh/100 km. The LCA found total CO2 emissions around 44% lower than the previous E 350 CGI model, which has comparable performance data and a conventional engine, during its life cycle (material manufacture, production, driving for 250,000 kilometers (155,000 miles) calculated with certified consumption figures and recycling) when the hybrid model is charged externally with the European energy mix.

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USDA: US corn-based ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 43% compared to gasoline, with additional benefits projected through 2022

January 13, 2017

A new lifecycle analysis of corn ethanol released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that GHG emissions associated with corn-based ethanol in the United States are about 43% lower than gasoline when measured on an energy-equivalent basis. Unlike other studies of GHG benefits, which relied on forecasts of future ethanol production systems and expected impacts on the farm sector, this study reviewed how the industry and farm sectors performed over the past decade to assess the current GHG profile of corn-based ethanol.

The new report, A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol, found greater lifecycle GHG benefits from corn ethanol than a number of earlier studies, driven by a variety of improvements in ethanol production, from the corn field to the ethanol refinery. Farmers are producing corn more efficiently and using conservation practices that reduce GHG emissions, including reduced tillage, cover crops and improved nitrogen management. Corn yields are also improving—between 2005 and 2015, US corn yields increased by more than 10%.

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WVU study fully characterizes pump-to-wheels methane emissions from HD natural gas vehicles and fueling stations

January 12, 2017

Researchers at West Virginia University have characterized pump-to-wheels methane emissions from heavy-duty (HD) natural-gas-fueled vehicles and the compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations that serve them. The study, published as an open-access paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, greatly expands on very limited data on methane emissions from natural gas-fueled vehicles.

The WVU pump-to-wheels study is the first end-use paper in a collaborative scientific research series designed to measure and better understand the sources and amount of greenhouse-gas methane that is emitted across the natural gas supply chain.

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Saint Jean Carbon building a high performance lithium-ion battery with recycled/upcycled material

November 25, 2016

Saint Jean Carbon Inc., a carbon science company engaged in the design and build of energy storage carbon materials, and a battery manufacturing partner will build a high-powered full-scale lithium-ion battery with recycled/upcycled material from an electric car power pack and upcycled anode material from Saint Jean Carbon.

Saint John said that this project—a first—is intended to provide results showing that the battery materials can be re-used over and over again, greatly reducing the demand for continued mining and helping the environment significantly. The project will take a three-stage approach:

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Argonne LCA finds renewable diesel from algae fractionation has 63-68% lower GHG than petroleum diesel

October 22, 2016

A new analysis from Argonne National Laboratory, funded by the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), shows the potential of an algae fractionation process to produce renewable diesel fuel with 63%–68% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional diesel. The study is published in the journal Algal Research.

In some algal biofuel production methods, lipids are extracted from algae and converted to renewable diesel, while the non-lipid components of the algae are converted to biogas. The biogas is used for renewable heat and electricity to power the conversion process of the lipids to renewable diesel.

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U-M study finds crop-based biofuels associated with net increase in GHGs; falsifying the assumption of inherent carbon neutrality

August 25, 2016

A new study from University of Michigan researchers challenges the assumption that crop-based biofuels such as corn ethanol and biodiesel are inherently carbon-neutral—i.e., that only production-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be tallied when comparing them to fossil fuels.

In an open-access paper published in the journal Climatic Change, the researchers conclude that once estimates from the literature for process emissions and displacement effects including land-use change are considered, US biofuel use to date is associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.

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Argonne team finds significant albedo warming effect for switchgrass ethanol

August 11, 2016

One of the key points of contention over the climate benefit of biofuels is the impact of land use change (LUC) associated with biofuel feedstock production. LUC results in biogeochemical (e.g., soil organic carbon) and biogeophysical (e.g., surface albedo, evapotranspiration, and surface roughness) changes. Of the biogeophysical factors, surface albedo has been considered a dominant effect at the global scale.

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has now quantified land use change (LUC)-induced albedo effects for three major biofuels in the US, using satellite data products for albedo and vegetation observations. Published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the analysis indicates that the land use change (LUC)-induced albedo effect is small for corn and miscanthus ethanol, but is significant for switchgrass ethanol, which is driven by the types, locations, and intensities of various land conversions to these biofuel feedstocks.

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