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A comparative energy and greenhouse gas emission assessment of bioethanol and residential pellet fuel produced from willow crops grown in New York State

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1009110.(doi:10.13031/2013.29812)
Authors:   Brendan M Cook, Susan E Powers
Keywords:   biomass, ethanol, willow, pellets, life cycle assessment

As the global understanding of climate change is increasing, environmentally and energetically sustainable solutions are increasingly valuable. Although transportation fuels have received the most attention as an energy product from biomass resources, these same resources could be used for domestic heating for increased sustainability in rural New York State. Domestic heating dominates household energetic requirements and creates a potential sector for energy solutions that are more sustainable. A life-cycle methodology provides a holistic approach to evaluate energy and environmental impacts throughout a products lifespan. This study evaluates fuels from the growth and harvest of biomass to the heat output of a commercial pellet combustor or for use in a vehicle fueled by ethanol. The ultimate objective of this study is to quantitatively compare the value of utilizing Northern New York wood for heating use versus ethanol fuel use. Sustainability metrics examined include life cycle fossil fuel consumption, petroleum consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Results show that employing willow as a residential heating fuel is 1.4 times as effective at displacing fossil fuels compared to cellulosic ethanol solutions, but 1.9 times less effective at displacing petroleum. This relationship calls for the further use of value judgments to determine which option should be pursued. Further results from this study will provide an understanding to help Northern New York make energy and environmentally conscious decisions regarding the appropriate utilization of biomass resources.

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