Environmental and economic tradeoffs of feedstock usage for liquid fuels and power production
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Steven R.H. Barrett.
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The thesis is divided into two parts - 1) assessing the energy return on investment for alternative jet fuels, and 2) quantifying the tradeoffs associated with the aviation and non-aviation use of agricultural residues. We quantify energy return on energy investment (EROI) as one metric for the sustainability of alternative jet fuel production. Lifecycle energy requirements are calculated and subsequently used for calculating three EROI variants. EROI₁ is defined as the ratio of the lower heating value (LHV) of the liquid fuel produced, to lifecycle (direct and indirect) process fossil fuel energy inputs and fossil feedstock losses during conversion. EROI₂ is defined as the ratio of fuel LHV to total fossil fuel energy input, inclusive of the fossil energy embedded in the fuel. EROI₃ is defined as the ratio of fuel LHV to the sum of renewable and non-renewable process fuel energy required and feedstock energy losses during conversion. We also define an approximation for EROI₁ using lifecycle CO₂ emissions. This approach agrees to within 20% of the actual EROI₁ and can be used as an alternative when necessary. Feedstock-to-fuel pathways considered include jet fuel from conventional crude oil; jet fuel production from Fischer-Tropsch (FT) processes using natural gas, coal and/or switchgrass; HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) jet fuel from soybean, palm, rapeseed and jatropha; and advanced fermentation jet (AF-J) fuel from sugarcane, corn grain and switchgrass. We find that ERO₁ 1 for conventional jet fuel from conventional crude oil ranges between 4.9-14.0. Among the alternative fuel pathways considered, FT-J fuel from switchgrass has the highest baseline EROI₁ of 9.8, followed by AF-J fuel from sugarcane at 6.7. Jet fuel from oily feedstocks has an EROI₁ between 1.6 (rapeseed) and 2.9 (palm). EROI₂ differs from EROI₁ only in the case of fossil-based jet fuels. Conventional jet from crude oil has a baseline EROI₂ of 0.9, and FT-J fuel from NG and coal have values of 0.6 and 0.5, respectively. EROI 3 values are on average 36% less than EROI₁ for HEFA pathways. EROI₃ for AF-J and FT-J fuels considered is 50% less than EROI₁ on average. All alternative fuels considered have a lower baseline EROI₃ than conventional jet fuel. Using corn stover, an abundant agricultural residue, as a feedstock for liquid fuel or power production has the potential to offset anthropogenic climate impacts associated with conventional utilities and transportation fuels. We quantify the environmental and economic opportunity costs associated with the usage of corn stover for different applications, of which we consider combined heat and power, ethanol, Fischer-Tropsch (FT) middle distillate (MD) fuels, and advanced fermentation (AF) MD. Societal costs comprise of the monetized attributional lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint and supply costs valued at the shadow price of resources. The sum of supply costs and monetized GHG footprint then provides the societal cost of production and use of corn stover for a certain application. The societal costs of conventional commodities, assumed to be displaced by renewable alternatives, are also calculated. We calculate the net societal cost or benefit of different corn stover usages by taking the difference in societal costs between corn stover derived fuels and their conventional counterparts, and normalize the results on a feedstock mass basis. Uncertainty associated with the analysis is captured using Monte-Carlo simulation. We find that corn stover derived electricity and fuels reduce GHG emissions compared to conventional fuels by 21-92%. The mean reduction is 89% for electricity in a CHP plant, displacing the U.S. grid-average, 70% for corn stover ethanol displacing U.S. gasoline and 85% and 55% for FT MD and AF MD displacing conventional U.S. MD, respectively. Using corn stover for power and CHP generation yields a net mean societal benefit of $48.79/t and $131.23/t of corn stover, respectively, while FT MD production presents a mean societal benefit of $27.70/t of corn stover. Ethanol and AF MD production from corn stover result in a mean societal cost of $24.86/t and $121.81/t of corn stover use, respectively, driven by higher supply costs than their conventional fuel counterparts. Finally, we note that for ethanol production, the societal cost of CO₂ that would need to be assumed to achieve a 50% likelihood of net zero societal cost of corn stover usage amounts to approximately -$100/tCO₂, and for AF MD production to ~$600/tCO₂.
Thesis: S.M., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 55-63).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Aeronautics and Astronautics.